Certification: It Matters to Me

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When it comes to the topic of certification, I speak loudly and clearly . . . it matters to me.

There exists within the doula world at least two camps.  One that values the process and accomplishment of certification.  The other who typically feels that certification my be unimportant and often too expensive or restrictive.

I fall into the camp that values the process and accomplishment of certification.  It’s no secret, I love to learn.  I’ll attend every workshop and training that I can afford to get to.  I’ve been a doula since 1999. During that time I’ve taken a host of workshops that offer certification or just continuing education.

In the three years after I first certified as a doula, I had over 78 hours of continuing education!

Over my career, I’ve maintained every certification I’ve achieved except for two.  I’m also driven to finish what I start.

While the certification process will vary from organization to organization typically:

  • They must attend a doula workshop
  • Read a certain number of books from a required reading list
  • Write a certain number of essays
  • Attend a minimum number of births
  • Provide evaluations from clients.

The number of evaluations needed and who they must be collected from will also vary from organization to organization.  There are other requirements such as signing and agreeing to certain organizations Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.

It goes without saying that there are doulas that chose to not certify that are terrific doulas. The value for me as an agency owner in having a doula achieve certification is that we know that the doula:
  • Has completed a minimum course of study and training in the role of a doula.
  • The doula has worked in a professional capacity with clients, nurses, and providers. And the doula has received positive evaluations from them on her role.  We know they can work professionally with other members of the birth team.
  • Must adhere to a set Standards and Codes that give both the doula and their clients very clear guidelines as to what the doula’s role is. More importantly, it is clear to all what they should and shouldn’t be doing.
  • And one of the more important ones to me is that clients and providers have recourse should a doula violate their Codes or Standards via the grievance policy that most certifying organizations have in place.

I’ll admit, it causes me concern when I hear about doulas who express that they don’t want anyone telling them how to practice.  As a doula in Tucson since 1999, I’ve worked very hard to build a positive reputation not only for myself but for all doulas within my community.

I’ve worked through deeply troubling times in my community.

I have needed to rebuild bridges when doulas are out there, acting outside the accepted scope of a doula.  Doing things such as: giving clients herbal supplements in labor, performing vaginal exams, telling women if they just take this supplement or eat more protein they can ignore their provider’s concerns about a certain complication.

There have been doulas who have stepped over the line of advocacy, speaking for their clients. This has caused a direct conflict with hospital staff that results in the contemplation of banning doulas from the hospital entirely.  While I acknowledge that certified doulas may also be guilty of this behavior, in our community it has been those who are resistant to certification that has clearly crossed these boundaries and put us all in jeopardy.

I won’t pretend to profess that my way is the only way. 

Each of us must travel this path and find our own way.  I’ve spoken here in generalities. I want to make clear that I do recognize that there are doulas out there that aren’t certified who are truly awesome. Yet I remain staunch in my belief that certification benefits everyone.

At Tucson Doulas we do require all of our doulas to achieve and maintain active certification. We also value the consistency and accountability that certification brings.  Additionally, we love that ProDoula provides consistency in training across all their doula trainers!  This is why we are working towards our entire team holding certification with ProDoula!

Holding our doulas to a professional standard is one of the things our clients value, love and appreciate.