Hospitals Credentialing Doulas? Yes, please!

Catie Mehl For Doulas, Medical Professionals 2 Comments

Lakeview Regional Medical Center in Covington, LA is working on putting a doula credentialing policy into place.  This policy would require doulas who are hired by families planning on giving birth at Lakeview to:

  • Sign a Scope of Service agreement (which is very similar to ProDoula’s Standards of Professionalism)
  • Sign a Job Description agreement (also very similar to ProDoula’s description of a doula)
  • Show proof of a yearly negative TB test
  • Show proof of yearly flu vaccine or wear a mask

In return, the hospital will:

  • Provide the doula with a name badge, allowing them access to Labor & Delivery and Mother & Infants without having to be buzzed in
  • Not count the doula as a “visitor”, thus increasing the number of people the laboring person can have with them during labor and birth

Some doulas are not on board with hospital credentialing.  We are.

Here’s the deal: When we are working and supporting a birthing family, we are conducting our work in the hospital.  We have been hired to provide a professional service, just like the hospital has been hired to provide a different type of service.  We respect the guidelines hospitals have in place for anyone who is conducting their business in the hospital.

Additionally, we are not visitors.  We are professional doulas.  The requirements above are no different than the requirements for anyone else who enters the hospital on a professional level.  

The primary argument against hospital credentialing is that it limits a pregnant person’s choices in who they can choose to have as a doula.  But the reality is that their choices are already being limited.

“I love the idea of a doula…but I’m having a hospital birth, not a home birth.”

When I talk with folks about doulas at baby fairs or when I’m out and about, this is what I hear 9 times out of 10.  The idea that we only support one type of birth is preventing them from even considering the idea of professional labor support.  What better way to show expecting families that we not only support hospital birth, but we also respect the guidelines their chosen hospital has in place for other professionals and we adhere to them ourselves?

“I’m really interested in hiring a doula, but my care provider isn’t so sure.”

This is another common theme I hear when someone calls to inquire about our birth doula services. Some people argue this means the care provider isn’t supportive, but I see it differently.  Many people who hire doulas interpret our role to be a medical expert or clinician.  We’re not.  There are few things that can do more damage to the patient-provider relationship than “I have to check with my doula”.  Is it any wonder that more and more care providers, the ones who are ethically and legally responsible for their patients, are unsure about doulas?  Some have even banned the use of doulas. This greatly limits a patient’s ability to choose who is best for them on their support team…and I totally get why some care providers have made this choice.

Professional birth doulas are experts in birthing options; we are not experts in clinical management of pregnancy, labor, and birth.  If there are questions and concerns about options being presented, our job is to encourage our clients to communicate with their chosen care provider, not to speak for them or to manage their care.  

“Do you get along well with the nurses at the hospital I’m birthing at?”

This is a question I am asked at every single interview.  A hospital credential would remove the need for this question.

Here’s the deal: Hospitals and medical professional offer their patients world class technology and expertise.  We offer our clients emotional and practical support.  Together we offer high-tech, high-touch care.  We serve different and complementary roles.

Additionally, collaboration has tremendous potential to increase both patient satisfaction and interest in doula support.  Right now, only about 5% of births are supported by a doula on a national level (I don’t think the number is that high here in central Ohio).  We know having a doula present at birth increases patient satisfaction.  Imagine how much patient satisfaction would increase if the doula were recognized by the hospital as a professional support person, someone who compliments the professional medical staff charged with caring for the health of the pregnant person and their baby.

At the end of the day, by not taking a stand and by not working to elevate the role of the doula in the eyes of expectant parents and medical professionals, we are already limiting choices for pregnant families.  Hospital-Doula collaboration has the potential to increase the use of doulas and patient satisfaction.  That’s a win-win in my book.

Lastly, I leave you with a testimonial from a recent client.  She never considered a doula for her previous births, in large part because she thought doulas were for home birth or unmedicated birth only.

During the birth, our doula helped me through the worst of my fears and talked me through my contractions.  It was by no means painless but she helped me focus and breathe and more importantly, she helped my husband feel like he could help me and be a bigger part of the delivery than he has ever been before…

I am so glad we used this service, it made my third and final birth experience one that I can look back on and feel really good that it went so well.”

I want this for more birthing families.  Working with hospitals, not for them and not against them, will help increase the number of families having a more positive birth experience.

If any of our central Ohio hospitals would like to get a conversation going on this, we would love to be part of it! You can reach me at 614-356-8500 ext 102 or at Catie @ BirthandParenting . com.

Comments 2

  1. Pingback: The Use of Research to Discuss the Benefits of Doula Support | Columbus Birth & Parenting

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *