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Communication Skills Module

Childbirth International’s certification programs (Birth Doula, Postpartum Doula, Childbirth Educator, and Lactation Counselor) include four modules: Communication Skills; Physiology; Professional Skills; and Business of Birth. Each module has a number of units or topics relevant to your work as a birth and lactation professional. Within a unit, you’ll read the course materials, complete self-guided reflective and critical thinking activities, and view external readings and videos. There may also be additional discussion forums, assignments, quick quizzes, and tests, which are required if you choose to complete the certification requirements.

The Communication Skills module is included in all four certification programs. If you are studying more than one course, this module is only completed once and does not need to be repeated for subsequent courses.

Topics in Communication Skills

Being able to communicate effectively with clients, their families, and their healthcare providers is an essential part of working with birthing and new families which is why it is part of all of our certification training programs. The topics covered in the communication skills module include:

An explanation for each unit within the Communication Skills module can be found below, together with a table outlining the competencies you will build in each unit.

Effective Communication

When working with clients and with the family and caregivers supporting them, you’ll be striving for open and honest communication that fosters trust. This unit explores the essential components of communication, both verbal and non-verbal, and the power of effective communication. You’ll learn about the main obstacles to effective communication, using empathy instead of sympathy, and becoming skilled at using open questions to help your clients explore their needs and preferences.

Certification activities in this unit

  • Getting to Know You introduction to your trainer
  • Peer group discussions on effective communication
  • Quick quiz on effective communication and open & closed questions
Essential KnowledgeContextual UnderstandingAttitudes and Behaviors
  • List the six principal components of effective communication
  • List the benefits of having honest and open communication with clients and caregivers
  • Identify three factors that inhibit communication
  • Explain the difference between an open and a closed question, and give examples of each
  • Relate the strengths and weaknesses of own communication style to the impact these have on the ability to communicate effectively
  • Evaluate the factors that affect ineffective communication and how they could be altered
  • Reflect on communication problems that result from a lack of awareness of effective communication or as a result of factors that inhibit communication
  • Evaluate the impact of different forms of body language
  • Consciously assess your body language and adjust it to impact communication positively
  • Compare and contrast the use of empathy and sympathy and their impact on client relationships
  • Recognize how asking a question can provide a different outcome depending on the questioning techniques used
  • Create an environment that optimizes effective communication
  • Demonstrate empathy for choices different from those that you might make for yourself
  • Use open and closed questions at appropriate times with both caregivers and clients

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Language & Communication

In this unit, you’ll consider the effect of language on the perception and understanding of birth and the postpartum experience. The way people perceive language affects how they understand concepts. As a birth and lactation professional, your confidence in using explicit language, body language, and your understanding of the cultural context of language, all affect the messages you send, and can also affect the way you present information to your clients. You’ll learn about the impact of risk-based and benefits-based language, and develop your skills in establishing empathy and language that works toward eliminating health disparities for the clients you work with.

Certification activities in this unit

  • Peer group discussion on giving advice and recommendations
Essential KnowledgeContextual UnderstandingAttitudes and Behaviors
  • Identify sources of information for interpreting medical terminology
  • Give five examples of non-verbal communication
  • Describe gender-biased language
  • Consider the impact of language on clients, healthcare providers, and peers
  • Compare and contrast risk-based language with benefit-based language
  • Compare and contrast the impact of empathy and sympathy on client relationships
  • Evaluate the impact of different forms of body language
  • Discuss the potential problems with giving advice and recommendations
  • Use appropriate language when communicating with peers, especially on social media
  • Consciously assess one’s own body language and adjust it to positively impact communication
  • Use appropriate language when communicating with clients
  • Use client-centered language that does not reinforce power structures

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Active Listening Skills

Sometimes clients don’t want information or input – they may just need a listening ear. When others are given the space to speak freely, they may identify their own misconceptions, fears, or the steps they need to take. Active listening skills modeled by yourself can help clients to overcome differences between themselves, family members, and their caregivers, enabling them to avoid conflict and resolve challenging situations when they occur.

Certification activities in this unit

  • Analyze your own listening skills and set goals for communication
Essential KnowledgeContextual UnderstandingAttitudes and Behaviors
  • List the components of active listening
  • Describe five listening styles
  • Identify four indicators of effective listening
  • List five potential negative consequences of failing to listen effectively
  • Describe seven common barriers to effective listening
  • Discuss situations that affect the ability to use effective listening
  • Analyze personal listening style and its effectiveness, identifying areas for improvement
  • Seek out opportunities to practice active listening skills
  • Use active listening skills consistently when working with clients
  • Confirm understanding with clients, especially when discussing complex issues
  • Use active listening to avoid conflict, defuse situations or resolve them when they occur
  • Reflect on situations where active listening was not used and identify strategies for future practice

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Diversity & Cultural Safety

As a birth and lactation professional, you’re likely to find yourself working with clients, colleagues, or caregivers who have different cultures and belief systems from you. To enable you to build effective working relationships, you will explore your own values and biases, and reflect on how to work with diverse groups of people even when you don’t agree with each other or have very different approaches to pregnancy, birth, lactation, and parenting. It’s also helpful to know where your boundaries are, whether there are situations you feel you can’t support, and how you’ll communicate these to clients. In this unit, you’ll also look at the concept of cultural safety, implicit bias, and how power balances and systemic structures influence the healthcare that an individual receives and can lead to disparities in outcomes for families.

Certification activities in this unit

  • Critically reflect on presenter bias
Essential KnowledgeContextual UnderstandingAttitudes and Behaviors
  • Explain what ethics and morals are, and how we form them
  • Identify the birth and infant feeding outcomes of culturally diverse groups within the local community
  • Describe cultural awareness, cultural competency, cultural humility, and cultural safety
  • Discuss how ethics and morals affect working relationships with birth and lactation professionals, clients, and caregivers
  • Evaluate the impact on client relationships from respecting other belief systems
  • Assess the meaning that culture has for culturally diverse clients
  • Evaluate the impact that epigenetics, racism, and discrimination have on infant and maternal outcomes
  • Support culturally diverse clients and communities with appropriate informationDiscuss cultural differences openly, and respond appropriately to cultural cuesUse active listening skills when involved in dialogues with diverse cultural groupsResearch and provide resources for culturally and linguistically diverse clientsCreate a lifelong plan for advocating for cultural safety

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Evidence-Informed Care & Informed Choice

Evidence-informed care integrates clinical judgment with the best available research available for clients to make decisions about what is the best course of action for themselves or their baby. The use of reliable research is a key component, but the term “evidence-informed care” also allows for the judgment of the individual healthcare provider in communicating the general principles of research evidence to an individual client. You’ll be able to understand the structure of research and develop the skills to communicate evidence, or lack of evidence, to clients in a balanced and non-threatening way. You’ll also explore the importance of informed choice and the components that ensure a client is giving informed consent when medical interventions are proposed.

Certification activities in this unit

  • Evaluate how an author relates their work to the evidence and presents that evidence
Essential KnowledgeContextual UnderstandingAttitudes and Behaviors
  • Define “evidence-informed care”
  • Identify sources of reliable evidence-informed health information
  • List the key components of informed choice
  • Explain the difference between informed choice and informed consent
  • Evaluate your role as a provider of information and facilitator of informed choice
  • Evaluate the role of medical research and evidence-informed care in your work
  • Translate a medical article into plain language suitable for clients to read
  • Identify the parts of a medical research article and the role of each
  • Communicate evidence-informed information to clients
  • Promote evidence-informed care within the community

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Grief & Loss

Supporting families through loss and grief is one of the most challenging areas of working as a birth and lactation professional. This is one area that students and experienced practitioners alike often dread. In this unit, you’ll explore theories of grief to give an overview of the ways the grief process is understood, and look in some detail at individual forms of loss, such as miscarriage, stillbirth, illness, or fertility problems. You’ll examine how families experience such losses, and the issues they may face in the aftermath. You’ll also look at how you can support clients in maintaining control over their decisions and making their experience an empowering one, before, during, and after a loss, even if their experience is one they would never have chosen. Finally, you’ll think about the importance of self-care when supporting a family through loss.

Essential KnowledgeContextual UnderstandingAttitudes and Behaviors
  • Describe the different forms of pregnancy loss and the associated risk factors for each
  • Identify sources of community and other support available for clients experiencing loss
  • List five possible sources of grief and loss
  • List things a birth and lactation professional can do to help grieving parents before, during, or after loss
  • Explain at least three theories of the processes of grief
  • Evaluate the evidence on options available for managing pregnancy loss or the threat of loss, and the evidence relating to these
  • Examine relevant issues for parents facing miscarriage, stillbirth, disability, and subfertility
  • Evaluate local grief support groups to determine their perspective and approach
  • Compare and contrast the ways that individuals may differ in their expression of grief
  • Analyze personal feelings about grief in the different situations that are relevant to a birth and lactation professional
  • Use language that is sensitive and respectful of families experiencing loss or the threat of loss
  • Seek peer support when supporting a family through loss
  • Provide resources to support families experiencing grief that are culturally appropriate
  • Provide opportunities for families to gather memories
  • Support families expecting a baby after a previous loss

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Reflective Practice & Debriefing

Reflection is a process where you not only at what happened in a situation but also why. Reflection enables us to go beyond the surface of our experiences and to explore the reasons why we and others acted in certain ways, what influenced us, what choices we made, and whether those choices supported our goals. With reflection, we can see a whole range of alternatives we may not have identified at the time of the event in question and can examine why we didn’t identify or choose those alternatives. Reflection helps us to be aware of our power, even if we realize that we didn’t use it. Reflection benefits us not only in our personal and professional lives but also leads us to begin asking different, more effective, questions of our clients, providing them with a vision of a more empowered way of being. In this unit, you’ll develop a strong understanding of reflective practice and how it can enhance your experiences and those of your clients while providing you with clear strategies for supporting clients in debriefing using reflective practice techniques.

Certification activities in this unit

  • Reflective case studies on working with clients through pregnancy, birth, and postpartum
Essential KnowledgeContextual UnderstandingAttitudes and Behaviors
  • Compare and contrast recount and reflection
  • Identify and describe three frameworks that can be used for reflective practice
  • Differentiate between goals and actions
  • Identify community resources for supporting clients in debriefing and reflection
  • List the benefits of debriefing
  • Evaluate situations where reflective practice can be helpful
  • Evaluate goals, expectations, and actions in past events
  • Analyze goals, expectations, and actions in a range of challenging scenarios and how expectations may need to shift to accommodate changing circumstances
  • Review strategies in reflection that enable different decisions to be made and how to apply these to practice
  • Consider the limitations and challenges in reviewing and reflecting on previous decisions
  • Explore a range of strategies for teaching reflective practice
  • Compare and contrast reflection and counseling
  • Regularly seek feedback from clients and peers
  • Use a simple model of reflective practice
  • Consistently use a reflective practice model following communication with others
  • Acknowledge own limitations in supporting a client with debriefing or reflection and refer appropriately
  • Provide opportunities for clients to debrief and reflect on their experiences
  • Seek support from peers, mentors, and other professionals to reflect on challenging situations

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