By Uta Mattox, AdvCD(DONA), CD(DONA)
Today’s post is the third and final post in a short series focusing on tips from the experts on birth and postpartum certification and recertification. Today, longtime doula Uta Mattox, former Director of Certification and current recertification reviewer, shares her professional tips and experience to help make the recertification process go smoother and easier for every doula who is up for recertification. You can find birth doula certification tips here, and postpartum certification tips here. – Sharon Muza, DONA Doula Chronicles Blog Manager
How often do I need to recertify?
Every three years. One certification period is three years, and it ends at the end of the month of your original certification date. Example: You were certified sometime in May 2012. Your recertification would be due by May 31, 2015. My personal recommendation: mark your calendar three months prior to your expiration date as your personal target deadline for submission the required paperwork. Don’t forget to keep track of your membership expiration dates, since continuous membership is one of the requirements to maintain certification. You can renew your membership for one, two or three years at a time.
Where do I find information about recertification?
You will find it posted on the DONA Website here. My recommendation: review the entire Guide to Recertification (there is one for Birth Doulas and one for Postpartum Doulas) at the beginning of your certification period, and then again every year, as you check what you may have completed already. This way you will have a better idea of the options and be reminded of various activities that you may be able to use to satisfy the continuing education requirements – and how to document them! Activities that take advantage of the many Alternatives to Continuing Education that DONA allows require supporting documentation, which varies from one activity to another.
How many contact hours do I need to earn in the three years?
Birth doulas will need to document fifteen contact hours, and postpartum doulas need to document eighteen contact hours, earned within the recertification period in question. Please note, that these are minimum requirements only, and for your own benefit and professional growth you may want to earn more than that.
How can I earn contact hours?
DONA International offers several different ways for you to earn contact hours for recertification! Of course, there is the annual DONA conference. And I encourage every doula to attend at least one in-person DONA conference at some point during their doula career. (Be aware: you may want to come back for more!) You can find information about the annual conference and other in-person continuing education workshops currently scheduled under Conference & Education on the DONA Website.
I don’t see anything listed in my town. Can I earn DONA contact hours without traveling?
Yes! DONA offers a number of different webinars, with a variety of practice and business topics, which are available on-demand on the Conference & Education page.
I also encourage you to keep an eye out for announcements of a DONA Virtual Conference. These online offerings are always available on-demand for a period of at least several weeks, allowing you plenty of time to view them, and even to watch them more than once if you wish. The big advantage of these online offerings is that you can watch them when you have time, whenever it fits your schedule, no matter the time of day, or your personal time zone. You can even leave to attend a birth and then return to it once you are back home and have caught up on sleep again. It is a very economical and convenient way to earn contact hours.
Do I need to earn DONA contact hours?
All continuing education opportunities DONA offers are relevant to doulas. Some may be a bit more interesting to postpartum doulas, others to birth doulas, but the vast majority are of interest and applicable in some way to all doulas. This means taking advantage of webinars and conferences offered by DONA International and attending workshops that offer contact hours approved by DONA. Chances are best that the information presented that awards DONA contact hours will actually be useful to you in your doula work. So it makes sense to always check out first what DONA has to offer and what new webinars may have been posted. You can always be certain that DONA approved contact hours will be accepted for recertification.
However, you may earn contact hours approved by other organization! All are listed under Continuing Education Information, in the Recertification Guide. If you carry other certifications or are also a licensed perinatal professional, you will find that you may use some of the continuing education you have to complete to keep those certifications and licenses active also for recertification with DONA International.
How do I know whether an event offers approved contact hours?
You can find all the info you need in this article, “How to determine whether a seminar or workshop offers continuing education credit that can be used for recertification“
How can I keep track of all the paperwork?
Establish a file folder (hard copy or virtual) just for the certificates of attendance you receive. Keeping them all in one designated place makes it quite easy to check a few times during your certification period to see how you are doing. Are you on track to earn the required number of contact hours in the time you have left? Do you need to step it up a bit, to make sure you will not fall short by the time you need to submit your recertification application? When the time comes to submit your application, it will be easy to make copies of all the relevant certificates, list them in your application, and include these copies in the envelope. After your successful recertification, once again be on the look-out for new continuing education opportunities, collecting your certificates again in a new file for the next certification period. When you use activities qualifying as Alternatives to Continuing Education, I recommend you complete the required supporting documentation as soon as possible, while it is fresh in your mind, and also save them in that designated file folder.
My finances are limited. How can I satisfy the continuing education requirements?
It is true that professional continuing education can be costly, especially if you need to spend additional funds for travel, accommodation, etc. However, don’t dismiss everything from the get-go. Look at the fees for events that are really of interest to you before making a decision. Don’t forget about the DONA Webinars. Those are quite affordable, and you can order (and pay) one at a time with no big lump sum required all at once.
There are a number of activities you can complete that are very low-cost, for example, reading books and viewing documentaries/films (check your public library and/or share resources with other doulas), attending parent support groups, serving as a preceptor for a newly trained doula working on certification, or observing and shadowing another experienced doula (or IBCLC or midwife) yourself.
Please carefully review the Alternatives to Continuing Education for Recertification in the Recertification Guide) to see all the options. Be sure to read the entire description of the activity you are considering so you can determine if the activity you are considering truly does qualify, and how to document it. Please note, while for some activities you can complete the supporting documentation at a later time, others will require you to be prepared ahead of time, and you will need to collect supporting documentation at the time of the actual event.
How can I reduce my risk of an audit?
Easy! Make sure your membership is current, you have paid all fees and have included a copy of your receipt. Carefully and legibly (!) complete both pages of the application/affidavit. Submit all the supporting documentation required for any Alternatives to Continuing Education, and submit copies of all certificates of attendance or completion for all approved contact hours you are claiming. An audit is much more likely if your application is incomplete, your documentation is invalid or missing. If everything is correct and qualifies, is complete and accounted for, an audit is extremely unlikely. My personal recommendation: if you have earned more than the minimum contact hours required, do include documentation for it.
My life is crazy at this time, and I cannot submit my paperwork in time. Is an extension possible?
Yes. You can purchase a six month extension for USD 10.00 to allow you more time to submit your paperwork for review. This will add exactly six months to your submission deadline, e.g. if your certification will expire at the end of November 2018, and you purchase an extension, your application will have to be postmarked no later than May 31, 2019. Please note: this does not change the rhythm of your certification periods; it only allows you additional time to submit your paperwork.
I don’t think six months will be enough. Am I out of luck?
No, but you will need to pay an additional processing fee and submit documentation for additional contact hours, depending on the date of your submission. Please see the Recertification Policy for details.
This all sounds so complicated and so much work – why bother with recertification at all?
Let me ask you: you worked so hard, spent so much time and money, in order to become certified in the first place – why would you dismiss all the effort and throw your certification away? As a certified doula you have professional credentials, so why not maintain them? It is much easier to maintain membership and recertify every three years, even if you feel you do not “need” those letters after your name to serve your clients, or maybe you are even taking a break from doula work.
I have had contact with a number of doulas who let their certification expire for one reason or another. A few years later they were in a situation where they needed that certification, for a job they wanted or in order to be allowed into a facility or to be able to be recognized as a professional within the community, or for some other reasons. They needed those credentials so badly that they took another workshop and repeated the entire long and extensive certification process once again, wishing all the while they had simply recertified instead, while they had the chance.
You should also know that each month our “Find a Doula” tool gets used by approximately 6,000 new unique users. Maintaining certification keeps your name available to anyone looking for a doula in your area. The fees for maintaining membership/recertification breaks down to $10.70 USD/month which is tax deductible.
DONA International is the most respected and largest doula organization in the world. Your credentials from this organization carry weight and demonstrate your continued commitment to professionalism and perinatal service. Please use these tips to help you during your next recertification as a birth and/or postpartum certified doula. Be proud of what you have achieved and know you stand with thousands of colleagues improving families’ experiences every single day. If you have any questions about the recertification process, please feel free to reach out to the Director of Certification for support and clarifications.
About Uta Mattox
Uta Mattox, AdvCD(DONA), CD(DONA) has been certified as a birth doula since 1997 and recertified in 2018 for the seventh time. She has served as a volunteer for DONA International in some way or other almost continuously since 1999. Uta has been serving on the certification committee since 2002 and served as Director of Certification (2009 – 2015). Uta has been reviewing recertification applications for birth and postpartum doulas for nine years. Summer 2018 Uta was awarded the AdvCD(DONA) designation. Uta is the mother of two adult sons. She worked as a birth doula in several different states along the East Coast. Currently, she lives in Germany, supporting and caring for her parents, and working again in her original profession, as a nurse in the operating room.