Lactation Education Resources Blog
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Mentoring the Next Generation of Lactation Consultants
The biggest challenge facing many aspiring lactation consultants is where to obtain their clinical hours. Those who have the easiest path for this are RNs working in maternity, nursery, labor and delivery, or other maternity setting. They can collect clinical practice hours at work as they focus on Pathway 1.
But for those who are not in this situation, finding an internship setting can be frustrating, discouraging, if not down-right impossible. I hear from potential IBCLCs on a regular basis about how difficult it is to find a mentor. This may be the stumbling block for many who throw in the towel at this point and give up on a career in lactation. What can we all do to help? We need as many workers in the field as we can find.
Do you want to retire at some point? Do you want to leave the lactation world in a better place than when you came into it? Then volunteer to mentor an intern. Or better yet, seek out a potential IBCLC and offer to assist her through her journey. List yourself on the ILCA Clinical Instructor map so people can find you. http://www.ilca.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3896 using the application found here http://www.ilca.org/files/education_and_research/Clinical_Instruction_Directory/Clinical_Instruction_Directory_Application.pdf
If you are not sure how to be a mentor, ILCA offers several modules on mentorship: http://modules.ilca.org/index.php?p=view_catalog
Lactation students look to mentors to provide that real-world component to the “book learning” they have been doing. Interacting with a variety of mothers, navigating “the system”, problem-solving in difficult situations: these are all skills best learned one-on one. Remember the old saying “iron sharpens iron”. Interns keep you sharp. They ask questions that make you think. You search the resource books together.
Mentors gain as much from the experience as the intern! It is so rewarding to see one of your “fledglings” fly off and do good work on her own.