Your doula workshop (also called doula training) is an important first step in your journey to become a birth or postpartum support professional. We asked DONA International approved birth doula trainer Penny Stansfield, who has trained over 1,000 doulas, to give us her top tips for getting the most out of a doula workshop. If you’re already completed your doula workshop, congratulations! Check out Penny’s post on The 8 Next Best Steps To Take to become a certified doula. Feel free to share with others you know who are planning the next step in their doula journey. — Adrianne Gordon, Blog Manager

Nine Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Doula Workshop

  1. Read, read, read ….. Start with the DONA International Position Papers (The Postpartum Doula’s Role in Maternity Care and The Birth Doula’s Contribution to Modern Maternity Care), Standards of Practice and Code of Ethics.  Then move on to reading some of the books on the required reading list.  The more you have read before the workshop, the more you will be able to participate in discussions and group activities.
  1. Be focused. Prepare and organize your family life so that you can give your time and attention unequivocally to the workshop. The workshops are packed with educational information, group activities, discussions and lectures. It requires your wholehearted participation. You cannot pop out to pick a kid up from a birthday party or leave early because of a family dinner. This is an ideal rehearsal for those times when you are called out to a birth or an unexpected postpartum assignment. Make sure that your family and friends understand your commitment and are prepared to support you.
  1. Prepare your route and estimate the driving time. I can’t tell you how many students arrive late the first morning either because they get stuck in traffic or they get lost. Out of respect for those who arrive punctually, I always start my workshop on time, which means that latecomers miss out on valuable introductions and housekeeping information at a minimum and sometimes on part of the first session. Think about this – what impression will you give to your birth or postpartum client if you show up for your appointment late because you got lost or underestimated the amount of rush hour traffic? Allow additional time on the first morning – if you get there really early, you will have a great opportunity to start getting to know other students before the workshop begins, or you can offer to help set up. And by the time the workshop begins, you will feel like you have already made friends!
  1. Identify your goals. Write a list of what you want to get out of the workshop. Do you want more education about birth and/or newborns? Does setting up a business seem like your biggest challenge? Do you feel your communication skills need to develop? Are you concerned about how you are going to complete the certification process? Do you want guidance on how best to maximize social media presence? Whatever your learning priorities are, make sure that you are finding answers to the questions on your list over the course of the workshop. If this isn’t happening, talk to the trainer. Trainers are not mind readers, so don’t be afraid to speak up and have your needs met!
  1. Network, network, network! Start connecting with birth and postpartum doulas on social media and in person. Attend some local doula gatherings. Find out if there are doula agencies or businesses in your area that might be hiring doulas.  Set up a lunch meeting, introduce yourself, ask questions, make an impression and be professional. This is your first step in creating a reputation in your community as a doula. It will give you a big step up as you complete your certification after the workshop if you have already done some networking before the workshop.
  1. Start your Resource List. By networking and seeking out other birth related professionals, you can make a good start on your resource list before the workshop. You can continue to add to your resource list during the workshop as you talk to other students from your area. Knowing where you still need resources will help you make the most out of these connections.
  1. Take good care of yourself. Find out about the food situation at the workshop in advance. Will meals be provided? Are there kitchen facilities for you to use if you bring your own meals? Are there restaurants nearby? Becoming hungry or dehydrated during a busy workshop will hinder the learning process, so don’t let that happen. Wear comfortable clothes and multiple layers so that you can avoid becoming too warm or too cold.
  1. Be prepared for personal growth. Doula workshops can provide opportunity for personal reflection and healing. Some intense emotions may arise. Trainers create an atmosphere of mutual respect, support and open communication. You may discover hidden strengths and vulnerabilities. Many students say that attending their workshop was life changing.
  1. ENJOY! Our workshops are fun, educational, interactive, and you will have the time of your life!

About the Author

105_0560 copyPenny Bussell Stansfield BA (Hons), AdvCD(DONA), BDT, LCCE, CLC, BCLMT has been a DONA International birth doula and approved birth doula trainer since 1997. She has trained over 1,000 doulas in over 100 workshops all over the US. She is also a board certified licensed massage therapist and teaches prenatal massage at the graduate level. She lives in Tucson, AZ.