volunteering at a hospital?

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Doula.Com General Discussion : One Thread

I am looking for anyone who has volunteered as a doula at a hopital. I am trying to get in as a volunteer at a local hospital who isn't familiar with doulas and I would love some feedback. Thanks so much. Denice

-- Denice Jentlie (djentlie@netscape.net), June 18, 1999


While I haven't volunteered at a hospital I have volunteered at an agency for pregnant young women. I would suggest being open to talking A LOT! I go in regularly (every 3 months) and do a talk for the women. I bring in my birth bag, show a video on doulas and answer questions as well as show them some comfort techniques that can be used in labor even if they don't have a doula. Inevitably I end up with at least one interested mom. Meeting people directly seems to be the best way to get clients. Being invited to a birth is such a special thing- an incredibly private time for most people that this seems to be a nice way to get to know people.

Working at a hospital you would get to meet people for the first time when they were in labor unless they got to sign up ahead of time. I'd also worry about having dual loyalties. If you are getting this opportunity from the hospital will you be as open with the couples/moms you work with? I enjoy working with couples/moms before the birth so that we can discuss the type of birth they want and anything that they would need to talk to their midwife or doctor about. Sometimes what they want isn't the norm for most careproviders or even their hospital of choice.

Just my thoughts on the subject..


-- Kirsten Gerrish (kirsten@doula.net), July 08, 1999.

I am currently involved in a workshop to train doulas, as prescribed by DONA and as required for their certification process. Though I have not yet attended any births as a doula, attendance of at least three births (well documented and evaluated ones) are required as part of my certification process. The workshop I am attending is offered in conjunction with an apprentice program for beginning doulas, who volunteer to work free of charge for patients contacting the hospital with interests in their inhouse doula program (for one or more births).

Precious Beginnings is the name of that hospital-based doula program and they also use grant moneys to provide birth balls, a labor tub and other comfort measures to women who deliver at Kettering Medical Center, even if they aren't having a doula present. The hospital there employs (on a contractual basis) 8 doulas, who may also be nurses or childbirth educators and who may also have private practices. More information on this program and on the foundation of other hospital based programs can be found by contacting Connie Livingston, the coordinator of the department and founder of the program. (E-mail Connie_Livingston@ketthealth.com or see the Precious Beginnings site at http://www.ketthealth.com/precious_beginnings/)

Through discussion during the workshop, I've been told that there IS a difference in approach when one is employed by or contracted through the hospital. The doula's role remains the same, however. The support of the woman and her partner, the facilitation of communication between care providers and the provision of information about procedures, risks, benefits, practices and other issues related to childbirth in the hospital are still a doula's main function. The difference is most likely to be that it will be harder to advise a client to reconsider the staff/doctor/midwife's decisions, though this can still be accomplished with tact and a little bit of understanding as to where both sides are coming from.

Volunteering at hospital births, especially with high-risk, unsupported or uneducated (about childbirth) moms is probably going to be one of the main aspects of my practice as a doula. In my area, doulas are becoming better known, as the Precious Beginnings office at Kettering Medical Center has been in existance for over three years now, so I anticipate less resistance from the staff and doctors but I have been advised that if I am to attend a birth at a hospital unfamiliar with me, or with the role of a doula, to tour the facility, to introduce myself and my profession to the doctors and nurses I'm likely to be working with (preferabley ahead of time), to explain my role in a non-threatening way and to expect resentment from certain staff members regardless of what I do.

Another volunteer route that I've heard gets good success at marketing oneself to prespective clients while in private practice is that of volunteering to speak or sit in on childbirth education classes through the hospital or private facilities, to host library based or book store based (Barnes and Noble does this) lectures or discussion groups about childbirth and/or the role of a doula and leaving information about oneself and one's practice with local OB's and even pediatricians including statistics on outcomes for mom and baby and the scope of one's practice.

Sorry if this seems a little long winded but there's just so much to say on this topic!


-- Lisa Blair (rose@shada.com), July 09, 1999.

I volunteered at Highland General Hospital on an on-call basis for about 2 years. I did labor support only, no prenatal support. This was very different from my work with private clients because you jump right in, no time for trust-building. It can also be harder to act as an advocate for the mom because you haven't discussed ahead of time her wishes for comfort measures, etc. That said, it was a great experience for me as a new doula because I got to participate in many births, and see a wide range of births, from unmedicated to forceps, twins, to vacuum extraction.

Depending on where you live, it may be very useful to take a Spanish for health professionals class.

Good luck!

-- Laurie Perron Mednick (savoryk@aol.com), March 16, 2000.

Moderation questions? read the FAQ