Birth work as clinical experience??

Hi All,
The past 5 years I have worked as a childbirth educator and doula (if you are unfamiliar with doulas, they are birth professionals that provide information and non-medical support to laboring moms). As a childbirth educator, I have taught classes that include everything from nutrition, anatomy, the birth process, breastfeeding,etc. As a doula, I have worked in a hospital setting as a self-employeed person. I met laboring moms that were private clients of mine either at the hospital or at home. I provided physical support and information (such as I rubbed backs, helped with breathing exercises, helped moms into favorable positions and provided information on what was happening with their bodies, I explained the tests or procedures OBs or CNMs were recommending, etc. I also helped moms learn to breastfeed and care for their newborns. Occasionally I attended OB appointments with moms and went with them for testing such as non-stress tests, etc.
While this was not a medical position, I did my work in a hospital setting and worked together with the OBs, CNMs and RNs as a “team”.
When it’s time to apply for med school (still a few years off!) would this be something I could use on my app for clinical experience? Or is this type of birth work not really considered clinical? I feel that it definitely showed me what hospital life was like, although in only one specific field.
Most of my volunteer experience up to this point has been in the birth field as well as that’s what I love. I have done work with anon-profit group that gives free “informational talks” to the public on all topics related to pregnancy, birth and postpartum and I’m in the process of starting a chapter that will provide information to my direct community. My only other volunteer experience has been “working” for my local parks and rec dept helping with children’s events and other general help.
Should I look for more varied experiences? Should I look into getting some other clinical/volunteer experience(s) outside of the childbirth field?
Any insight would be greatly appreciated.

I think you should definitely put this down as clinical experience (clinical meaning patient contact). That’s what the adcoms are looking for- proof that you know what you might be in for as a health professional and that you are dedicated to helping people. Being a doula and giving public presentations fits perfectly! And I’d think that you will stand out quite a bit from the average applicant whose clinical experience may be limited to medical records or pushing people around in wheelchairs. Geez, how many babies have you seen being born? How wonderful!
I included my volunteer work with our area breastfeeding peer support group and my son’s primary school on my application. (And the National Audobon Society’s Annual Christmas Bird Count and being an online moderator for an internet breastfeeding support community!) And although I had little other “volunteer” experience, my daily work experience includes patient contact such as taking vital signs and transport, arranging appointments and follow-up interviews.
Ironically, my diversity of volunteer experiences helped me, I think! One of my interviewers was an outdoorsperson and appreciated my birding interest. His wife is a teacher and so he appreciated my interest in helping out at my son’s school. And his now-grown children (3) were all breastfed (during a time when it was NOT the thing to do) and so he definitely noticed my breastfeeding volunteer work. Everything fit so perfectly! It was almost as if the visit was foreordained. (OOOH!)
IMO, your present experiences fit the bill and give an HONEST and TRUE picture of who you are. I wouldn’t look to expanding into other areas unless YOU WANT IT.
Good luck!

hey not2late!
I am a doula and in training to be a Lamaze educator. Not only that, but I was accepted to medical school for the class of 2008! Did I use my birth experiences as clinical experience? You betcha!
Admissions committees look for folks that do what they do because they love it and are passionate about it. I am guessing that the birth process is a big part of who you are and what you believe. I am also guessing that you love what you do and that part of your reason for becoming an M.D. is so you can have even more influence.
You could fill in your clinical experience with some shadowing. I am sure you know many docs in the work you do. Ask them if you can shadow them during their office hours to get a bigger picture into the care of their patients.
Otherwise, keep doing what you are doing and keep doing it better everyday.
Where are you, btw? I am in Raleigh, NC. Are you ICEA, LAmaze, etc.?
Good luck.

I’m in Southeast Michigan between in a suburb between Detroit and Ann Arbor.
I am certified to teach classes through Birthworks, CAPPA and HypnoBirthing. I am a member of ICEA but did not certify with them. I’m doula certified with DONA.
I actually don’t know a lot of docs because they only show up for the last 15 minutes of the birth and I rarely see the same doctor twice as I see a wide variety of women from all different communities. Plus many practices have as many as 15 OBs and many times even the mom doesn’t know the doc! So I don’t know any of them well enough that I could ask to follow them around for a day. I’m also planning on curbing back doula work from here on out because I don’t want to risk being at a long birth during an important test or something. I’ll probably just doing teaching for a while.
Nice to see other birthy people around!


Hi All,
When it’s time to apply for med school (still a few years off!) would this be something I could use on my app for clinical experience? Or is this type of birth work not really considered clinical? I feel that it definitely showed me what hospital life was like, although in only one specific field.

Hi Christy, This definitely “counts” as valuable clinical experience. I would suggest, however, that you broaden your horizons just a bit so that you also know what it’s like to be a physician in a hospital around lots of sick patients rather than just birthing mothers. You want to be able to answer the question “How do you know you want to be a doctor…what medical experiences have you had?” with experiences broader than your doula work.

I concur with Judy but also a caveat. Like you I was obsessed with one particular aspect of medicine (in my case, HIV/AIDS) before starting the pre-med process, and even during much of that process too. (And now for that matter.) However, it happens that I did get asked in interviews very specifically whether I’d done other things, seen other kinds of medicine. In fact, I’d worked in an ER (albeit on an HIV study), and also on a homeless outreach van (albeit to a population with a lot of HIV); and so I could answer yes. However, this leads me to my caveat. Don’t do something just because Judy or I tell you it’s a good idea; just think about what other kind of clinical experience might be really great to explore. It could be something a bit related–for instance, a women’s clinic with a more general practice, where you could use your expertise for part of the time but also learn some other aspects? But I do think it is important to broaden out at some point, just to know how you’ll feel about all the parts of medical school/medical training that have nothing to do with birth, as well as for broader reasons.
Good luck!

In general I would say that you might want to broaden your experiences a little, as it might be asked about in an interview, but do towards activities soley for that purpose. You don’t just want to “fill up” your time with events, make them worthwhile to you.

Thanks guys -
I will definitely add that stuff to apps when the time comes. And I will plan on looking into another volunteer/clinical experience as well so I can broaden my horizons. I’m not sure yet what I want to do, but I’m certainly interested in other areas.
Thanks so much for your input!