This is the second installment in our Sailing through Certification: Tips from a Packet Reviewer series.  Birth doula certification packet reviewer, Julia Schetky, posts tips on DONA International’s Facebook groups each week with tips for those preparing that precious packet. The first post covered some key tips on legibility, completeness and organization that apply to both birth and postpartum packets purchased anytime. Be sure to start there!  This second part of the series covers the all important essays  and the resource list. We’ve also included special tips for the resource and reading lists for packets purchased before October 2015.

Don’t forget to post to our social media channels when you get that certification call so we can congratulate you!

Essay: Value of Birth or Postpartum Support

This element of the certification process helps the doula integrate all she has learned and demonstrate that learning. It also shows understanding of the role of a doula and our scope of practice.

  • Review the description of this essay in your packet. It lists all of the things that should be discussed in your essay. All of these items need to be addressed or you will have to revise your essay and re-submit it to the reviewer.
  • The position paper, Scope of Practice and Code of Ethics are key resources for writing this essay. Reread them when you get ready to write it and keep them handy as a reference.
  • Code of Ethics/Standards of Practice elements need to address whether doulas are clinical or non-clinical care, the role of advocacy and continuity of care.
  • List how doulas make a quantifiable and measurable impact on families. Hints: there are at least five and the research published in the Cochrane Library in 2011 is your go-to resource.
  • How do doulas impact partners and families? Be sure to demonstrate your knowledge of how doula support is valuable to them as well as the birthing individual.

Essay: Birth or Postpartum Support

In many professions, those who are in training are observed when they first work begin providing their services as a resident, apprentice or junior associate. The essays, along with the Labor Progression Sheet for birth doulas, fills this role by giving DONA International insight into how you supported this client, what skills you used and how you navigated your role as the experience unfolded. Birth doulas, keep that Labor Progression Sheet handy so you can be sure the two documents work together to tell the whole story and so you know what details you don’t need to cover in your brief essay.

  • Respect the word limit! We know it’s hard to summarize the hours you’ve spent with a client and all that happened during their labor or postpartum experience into such a brief essay. This is CliffNotes version of the experience. Be succinct. Remove any extra words and focus on the specific things that are asked for.
  • Using headings before paragraphs that summarize each piece (for example from the birth doula packet purchased prior to October 2015: Description of the Birth, Role as the Doula, Mother’s Reaction to the Process, What You Learned).
  • Edit, edit and edit some more!

Resource List

Some doulas see the creation of a resource list as busy work, but nothing could be further from the truth!  Doulas are an important bridge for families to other services and resources in the community. Having strong knowledge of where you can refer clients when needs arise is a key function of being a doula. The resource list is really a tool for you to provide the support and information your clients need.

  • Remember the total list is at least 45 items.
  • Resources are needed in 30 categories to ensure you have appropriate referrals and information sources for a range of client needs.
  • Include at least two ways that clients can get in touch with each resource (phone, email, website or physical address).

Additional Tips for Packets Purchased Before October 2015

For those working on completing a certification packet purchased before October 2015, here are some tips that will support a quick review of your certification packet.

References List

  • When you are notified your packet has been received for review, notify your references so they are expecting to hear from someone with DONA International. Find out what the best times are to reach them and let your reviewer know.
  • Birth professionals:  Be sure these references know you well know to answer questions about how you work with others in the birth and postpartum community. Also consider how reachable these references are. It’s notoriously difficult for packet reviewers to reach doctors via their main office phone number or to connect with nurses who work night shift.
  • Clients: Consider how reachable this person is and if they can speak to your strengths as a doula as well as areas where you need to grow.
  • Have a back-up reference or two in case your primary references are hard to reach. This is often a factor in packet reviews that take longer than average.

Reading List

  • For the first section, you must have read all three items listed.
  • In the subsequent sections, you are to read at least one from each category.

We are grateful to Julia Schetky, CD(DONA) for her support of DONA International doulas working toward certification. For additional support, feel free to contact Certification Director Johanna D’Aleo at

— Adrianne Gordon, CD(DONA), MBA, Blog Manager