Acquiring Clinical Practice Hours
Jan Barger working with a mom of twins
IBLCE's Clinical Experience Calculator Form
(clicking this link automatically downloads an IBLCE Excel spreadsheet)
What is the best way for you to gain clinical practice hours? Where will you acquire your experience? For someone who already has a degree in a health related field such as a dietician, nurse, or physician, it should be relatively easy to gain access to hospitals, home health agencies, clinics, or physician offices to practice. For those who do not have a health-related degree, it may be a bit more difficult, but certainly is not impossible. Many of the leading LCs in the field are non-nurses or do not have a previous health degree. Finding places to gain needed experience will require some creativity and ingenuity, as well as a strong degree of determination.
Clinical Hours Sources
- Supervised experience with an experienced IBCLC covering all facets of lactation education.
- Completion of the suggested experiences in Blueprints in conjunction with the lactation competencies listed with IBLCE with a qualified instructor is an excellent beginning, and will lead to broad-based preparation as an IBCLC. As you are in a student capacity during this time, you need to expect to be charged by the instructor for this service. Look at Pathway 3 on the IBLCE website.
- Participation in one or more of the following mentorship/clinical instructor programs:
La Leche League (LLL) or Nursing Mothers' Council (NMC)
As a qualified leader, the IBLCE will grant a credit of 500 practice hours for each year you are actively practicing as a leader or counselor. If you can document more than 500 hours, then those hours will also be considered.
WIC/Public Health Breastfeeding or Peer Counselor
Many WIC agencies are eager to hire people to work in their clinics counseling women about breastfeeding if they have completed a lactation consultant preparation course and have had personal experience breastfeeding. This is a great way to get your practice hours for the exam.
Approach one of the physician groups in your area - OB, Family Practice, Pediatric - and negotiate with them to provide lactation helpfor their clients, perhaps on a volunteer basis while you are fulfilling your clinical practice hours requirement. Take along a copy of Blueprints so they can see what you would like to accomplish.
Approach your local hospital and volunteer your services as a breastfeeding counselor or patient educator. Consider making rounds on all the breastfeeding mothers, providing outpatient lactation services on a limited basis, follow-up phone calls, pre- and/or postnatal breastfeeding classes, or a postnatal breastfeeding support group.
Home Health Agency
Contract with a home health agency to see mothers with lactation problems. You may be able to make home visits with the nurses as they are seeing postpartum women and do the lactation assessments and counseling at that time.
Determine your own strengths and weaknesses in the experience you already have. If you are a maternity nurse, and have a lot of experience with normal newborns up to about three days of age, you need to get experience with preterm infants, older breastfeeding infants and toddlers as well as conditions mothers experience beyond the immediate postpartum period. If your experience is primarily through LLL or Nursing Mothers' Council, you need to work with more newborns and sick children. If you have mostly pediatric experience, you need to work with newborns, healthy infants, and mothers with a variety of problems. Blueprints is designed to help you focus on which experiences you need as you complete your hours towards your IBCLC candidacy.
Note: If a hospital or physician's office permits you on site as a volunteer to obtain your breastfeeding consultancy hours, you will be required to sign a form regarding respect for patient confidentiality (HIPAA). You may be required to have certain immunizations, a TB test, drug screen and criminal background check.
If you have any further questions that haven't been answered here, please don't hesitate to contact us. You may find more suggestions on the IBLCE website.