Death Doula Training

July 24, 2022


A few weeks ago I was asked by an aspiring death doula for recommendations about the best training programs.  The poor woman had no idea what she was in for by opening the door to one of my favorite rants.

I encounter self-proclaimed death doulas on a regular basis, and when I ask about their training, I’m almost always disappointed in what I hear.  Most have no experience at the bedside of a dying person other than with a close family member, and their “training” involves nothing more than one or two weekend workshops… with no actual clinical experience.

Practitioners lament that this discipline is not taken seriously by hospitals and hospices, and it isn’t hard to see that there’s a good reason for this. So when I’m asked for my opinion about how to make a career out of it, this is what I offer:

 

 

1. Start by spending at least six months as a hospice volunteer. All death doula training programs should require this, but unfortunately, they don’t. You need to experience death care with patients that are not your own loved ones.  Attending the death of your own family member does not qualify you to attend the death of a stranger. It’s very different.

2. Most doula programs don’t require any hands-on, experiential training or clinical supervision. This is unfortunate.  These programs should require a minimum of 90 days supervised training/internship in a clinical setting before any sort of certification is granted.

3. Doula program don’t generally require any previous education. In my opinion, doula trainees should  have at least a bachelors degree in a related field, such as nursing, psychology, gerontology, social work, etc. Specific training in family dynamics, spiritual care and compassionate communication should also be mandatory.

4.  In addition to formal education, candidates should have the ability to set their own beliefs and biases aside, and possess some degree of multi-cultural competency.

 

Without meeting the criteria mentioned above, you really don’t have any practical skills at all, which is why “death doula” is not considered a certifiable profession in the health care field. However, if the program you choose offers an academically-sound curriculum, you’re off to a great start. The woman who asked for my recommendation was interested in a course at a college in Vermont, and she sent me the syllabus to look at. The required reading didn’t include any academic material at all… the two books they require are not even at undergraduate level (and one of them is written by the instructor).

If your goal is be hired by a hospice, hospital or nursing home,  please consider a bona-fide academic program like the one offered by Marian University in Thanatology. These course are offered at many colleges these days, and if your goal is to have a professional career in this field, it’s worth it to spend the time and the money getting a substantial education.

 

© 2022 by Terri Daniel

 

 

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Terri Daniel

2 Comments

  1. Melissa Wentland Moreno on July 24, 2022 at 8:29 pm

    HI Terri
    I am a Nurse Practitioner in hospice/eol care and I would like to be trained to be a death doula. Of course I have a certificate as a spiritual care volunteer 30+ years ago …. and I may have had more training that the death doula currently has.

    I have an educational background and currently work in a hospice. I would love to start a death doula certification course and use your expertise and outline.

    Do you have any faith in the two current death doula training programs that I have seen in Northeast. I was planning on taking a weekend training in NYC -then covid hit. all bets were off and everything was chaos..
    I still feel that this is VALUABLE work and want to train others in it.
    Do you have any suggestions for me to create a new program.
    I was thinking of approaching the BOCES continuing adult educations program of local community college.

    Just looking to pick your brain.

    my cell is 914-262-6216 ( i am in metro NY)

    • Terri Daniel on July 24, 2022 at 8:42 pm

      Hi Melissa!

      Are you talking about getting doula training for yourself, or are you talking starting a program where you are training others? With your experience and credentials, you don’t need any additional education, so I assume you’re talking about becoming a doula instructor. I think you would be perfect for that. And I think that you would create a program that requires a good solid foundation in clinical experience/supervision and academics. Approaching a local college is a good place to start.

      Regaring my faith in doula programs, I don’t approve of the ones that “certify” people without requiring any supervised clinical hours or bona fide academic work.

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