Does an Experienced Doula Really Make a Difference?
Someone posted recently on facebook that she did not think fees doulas charged should be based on experience. She said that once she completed her training she felt like all doulas were of equal value. This made me go hmmm…. I do not think so. The conversation was started based on new doulas who have paid for training offering their services for free or really reduced rates. All doulas feel this devalues the service. I agree. And the conversation is about how fees are not charged that actually create a living for a doula. But that does not negate the value of experience.
If a doctor had only performed your type of surgery a few times, would you feel as comfortable with him as you would someone who does this surgery daily and has been for years? Perhaps a new surgeon would be impressive- right out of medical school and the newest and latest procedures would be good. But if the more experienced surgeon kept up with his continuing education and went to conferences to learn new techniques, perhaps not.
She went on to say she charged twice as much as many of the doulas in her community but was busy. She said people would pay it because she ran her business like a business vs the way the others ran theirs. I do get this. I have written about the doulas who dabble with a few births a year, do not keep up with continuing education, and even do not have a regular back up yet call around last minute to find a back up while they head out of town after being hired. These are awful and poor business practices.
But in our group we do have different fees based on experience. The doulas set their fees but the recommendation is to set it according to level of experience. Why? Because there is value in having been to many more births. Your experience is just that… how many times have you seen this procedure, this turn of events, used the techniques to help a laboring couple? I do think my experience of over 600 births makes me a great doula. I do think experience is only one piece though in selecting a doula.
We run our group as a business and try to practice good business skills. We encourage continuing education. When we come back from conferences and workshops and share with the others in the group the information we learned. It is important to continue learning. We spend time together monthly where we sit and share birth situations that we feel others can learn from and those we need to learn from. We have policies in place that help us remain consistent in our services as well.
Because we are a group of doulas who work more like a sisterhood than a group that is merely a referral agency, we support each other. If someone is at a birth and trying to work through a difficult time with them, she knows she can call any of us, especially the most experienced doulas to ask for insight. So, although she may be the lesser experienced one, she has a 1000 births of experience supporting her. And our doulas begin as apprentices, shadowing and participating as assistants with a more experienced doula before taking births on her own. This hands on mentoring has developed some awesome experienced doulas. So even our lesser experienced doulas have a different level of experience and supported experience behind them.
So, I will say I understand that the poster on facebook believes what she writes. But I do not think she knows what she does not yet know. As she becomes more experienced, I think she may agree, experience is worth paying the extra for!