participants in washington, dc learn how to be a doula

How to Be a Doula

So you want to be a doula but you’re not quite sure where to start? At Doula Trainings International (DTI), our program specialists get to speak with a lot of people at various stages of their doula journeys, including before they decide to become a doula. We can walk you through the options over the phone to help you decide what works best. In this post, let’s take a look at an overview of how to be a doula so you can start out more informed and confident! 

The first step of how to be a doula might be obvious, but let’s start with taking a high-quality training! Doula support requires an open mind and a caring heart and if you feel called to it, there’s a good chance you’re already equipped to do it! But to wrap your head around the various settings you’ll be stepping into, the practical side of finding folks to work with, and different ways to build a practice in your community, a good doula training can help you with all of this and more. Connecting with a community who is there for you as you’re learning and growing is also a huge benefit of choosing DTI for your training.

After taking a training, you’ll feel much more ready to be a doula as you will have gotten all of your burning questions addressed. A few of the common questions you may have that will get answered at your training:

  • Do doulas need insurance?
  • Do doulas need a business license?
  • How do doulas work with providers to help clients receive good care?
  • How do doulas get their name out there?
  • What happens if a doula misses a birth? How do they make all of this work?

You might be wondering what doula training will be like and if you should choose an online option or wait for something in person. When you’ve decided you want to learn how to be a doula, choosing a training can feel scary. But we’re here to make that decision less intimidating! The DTI program is predominantly online with access to comprehensive coursework that will leave you feeling prepared to work with clients. The modules, required readings, live instructor calls, certification checklist, doula storytelling hour every month, downloadable resources and advanced monthly workshops all converge to ensure you know exactly how to be a doula! You will also have a chance to connect with other doulas and find a study buddy! The great benefit to choosing DTI’s online training is accessibility from anywhere in the world and the flexibility you’ll get to work on the lessons on your own time. 

Although our training program is mostly virtual, there are in person workshops offered in select locations. If you have access to attend and are able to make the extra investment, these experiences are wonderful and come highly recommended! DTI currently offers workshops in Berlin, Germany, Los Angeles, CA and Washington, DC. In person students access all of the same resources that our online students receive. But it’s totally OK if you can’t make the in person option work. You will still get tons of support from the DTI instructor team. Either way, we are ready to help you learn how to be a doula with full confidence! Set up a discovery call with our lovely program specialist today! 


Doula Jobs

If you’re wondering what doula jobs there are available after completing training, you’ve come to the right place. The doula role is a unique one, so it can be tricky to wrap your mind around how you are going to stay employed after becoming a doula. Since there are very few, if any, traditional salaried positions for doulas, being a doula takes creativity, independence and a lot of passion for the role! So even though you are unlikely to be hired as full-time doula employee, there are definitely ways of creating doula jobs that allow for fulfilling careers. And the best part is, you get to pursue your life’s purpose! Let’s take a look at the major ways that doula jobs are created, and then we’ll break each one down:

  1. The doula creates their own business
  2. The doula joins an already established agency as an independent contractor
  3. The doula signs up for a hospital based program
  4. The doula signs up for a volunteer program to gain experience and/or to give back to their community
  5. The doula becomes a state-registered doula to work with clients on Medicaid

Creating a doula business

This first option is the most common way doula jobs are created, but it takes the most time and effort on the doula’s part. If you decide to create a solo doula practice, you’ll make your own website, do your own marketing, and get out there and network! Or you can invest in hiring someone with experience to help you build the business side. If you love to create and enjoy keeping track of income and expenses, this option might be for you. Keep in mind you’ll still need to find and work with back-up doulas just in case of illness or other scheduling conflicts. 

Joining a doula agency

This option is just about as popular as the first one, and it’s a great solution to the issues new doulas may encounter, such as the time it takes to market your services and gain clients. With an already established doula agency, you can often find doula jobs more quickly and easily. The agency owner will take care of the process of finding and matching you with potential clients, executing contracts and making payments.

Signing up for a hospital program

This option of finding doula jobs is far less common. There might be a hospital based doula program in your area so it’s definitely worth asking around. But there might also be issues and barriers that could make this method for finding doula jobs a tricky one. Doulas are usually most effective in their role if they remain focused on the individual families’ needs outside of the system. This allows doulas to advocate for their clients without having to abide by unnecessary hospital rules, such as requiring IV fluids even if you are already hydrated, or requiring continuous wired fetal monitoring even if your baby is healthy and only needs intermittent monitoring, for example. 

Signing up for a volunteer program

Another way of finding doula jobs is to look for volunteer based programs. These programs are not especially common, but if there’s one in your area, it’s a great way to find your first clients and document the experiences while you are completing certification. It can also be an excellent way to give back to your community and help people find support when they are not able to afford services. The only drawback is that you might be waiting a long time to get matched with one of these doula jobs. Another possible drawback is you might not have a chance to meet with your clients as often as you would if you had found them on your own.

Becoming a state-registered doula

Lastly, as of this posting there are currently 13 states plus the District of Columbia where it’s possible to become a state-registered doula and get reimbursed for your doula care of individuals using Medicaid insurance. This option is by far the most difficult method of finding doula jobs because it can be extremely limiting and also time-consuming to get paid. The major limits are that you might not live in a state where it’s possible to get reimbursed for doula services. If you do, you’ll have to research and complete a special process to get set up in the state’s system. Their system may have requirements that are too difficult for you to complete, such as completing a specific doula training, keeping a doula insurance policy, or having a certain amount of experience already. If it’s your desire to work with Medicaid participants, we recommend joining the Doula Medicaid Project listserv. You will find a wealth of information about all of the various happenings state-by-state. Doulas who train through our program at DTI can currently be reimbursed for doula jobs in CA, DC, MD, MI, NV and NY.

Do you help me find clients?

DTI does not link you directly with clients, however our programs offer a strong business focus to help you build a practice that’s uniquely you and guides you in getting creative about ways to connect with your core audience. Check our schedule to see if a local workshop is offered near you. It’s in those cities where you’ll find the highest concentration of practicing DTI doulas who are the best referral source for finding work! A free doula locator listing is included with your membership as well.

What does it take to get certified?

Although you’ll already be prepared to work as a doula after your training, completing additional certification requirements does further your education, experience, connections and resources. All of the activities are designed to bring value to you as the student, which brings value to your clients. Read through the certification requirements on our FAQs page. Although DTI has kept a traditional title or two on the list, we’ve vetted a selection that’s quite a bit different than your average doula reading list.

Why choose DTI?

We all have personal preferences, a favorite logo or an Instagram post that caught our attention when making a purchasing decision. Yet in today’s world of healthcare options being restricted, increasing awareness around systemic racism, and the resulting poor outcomes in birth care, I’d say that you owe it to yourself and to your future clients to consider training with an organization actively working to combat these issues.

DTI continually examines ways to remove barriers and increase access to high-quality training. Are you choosing a workshop because it’s the most affordable option? Or because there’s a trainer affiliated with a brand-name in your area that all the doulas seem to be going to? Carefully consider each aspect of what you’re buying and ask the questions:

  • Are there hidden fees? Membership + workshop tuition + certification material fee + re-certification is the standard formula, compared to DTI’s doula resource subscription + lifetime certification program. Particularly after a few years of practicing, investing in DTI is less expensive, even though it requires more up front than some of the other programs available.
  • Does the organization support you as an individual? Life happens! If you need to step away from doula work to have a baby of your own, or for any other reason, your certification will not lapse. You are able to stay plugged in and current in the field through the DTI annual membership.
  • Is the training curriculum rigorous and current? After completion of certification requirements, DTI doulas are experienced, well-educated and prepared to serve all pregnant and birthing families through the lens of cultural humility and reproductive justice. All trained DTI members will have access to a reproductive health curriculum update beginning in October 2019. Potential doulas have the option to select our full-spectrum certification (reproductive health + birth + postpartum) together in one program, birth or postpartum separately, but you will need to train in both eventually if you want to certify as a full-spectrum doula.
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