Later this year, IDLM will be hosting the Tree of Life Conference in San Antonio. We are beyond excited for this event, which will be the first-ever conference held specifically by and for end-of-life doulas. As preparation, over the next few months this blog will host a series of articles showcasing the talents and accomplishments of the fabulous speakers and educators who will be presenting at the conference in November, and we figured the best place to start would be with our own Anna Adams, the founder of International Doula Life Movement. 

Here is some of what she had to say about the journey she has had with IDLM:

Please describe your own background in end of life work and what inspired you to found the International Doula Life Movement.

At 15, I started volunteering at a local hospital and found my calling in the medical intensive care unit. By 16, I became a certified nursing assistant and began caring for a loved one at the request of a friend. This experience led me to embark on my Hospice journey, which has involved caring for thousands of clients and families. I have worked in crisis care and in-patient units throughout my career, where I discovered my role as an End of Life Doula. I noticed that as Hospice became more medically focused, it began to lose sight of its original purpose. I decided to conduct further research on the care and support I was providing, which led me to discover end-of-life doulas. Realizing this aligned with my work, I sought to make it more official by exploring available programs. However, I soon realized that these programs were expensive, and as a mother with four children living paycheck to paycheck, I was still determining how I would afford them. Despite my financial concerns, I ultimately decided to invest in a program that cost me nearly $3000, which was a significant financial regret. I didn’t gain anything from the program, but I was able to connect with others in the same line of work. However, after 12 weeks, I noticed that most of the 20 people who left the program needed more confidence, proper education, and the support and community that doulas need. This prompted me to conduct a research project and speak to 30 doulas worldwide. Through this, I discovered that our industry faces significant issues, particularly cost, support, and education. I realized that I had the potential to make a change, although I wasn’t surprised to find out how quickly it would happen.

Shortly later, I established the International Doula Life Movement. In the initial year, we offered a 12-week course, a 14-week course in the second year, and a 16-week course in the third year. Currently, we provide a comprehensive 28-module training program spanning over 80 hours. Our first-class commenced in January 2021, with an enrollment of 49 students from various parts of the world. To date, we have successfully graduated over 900 plus doulas nationally and internationally. Our students and graduates not only seek education but also find a supportive community of doulas to accompany them on their doula journey. IDLM provides its students with cost-effective education, support, and community, enabling them to become proficient doulas who serve their communities. Unlike other doula programs, we invest time learning and building relationships with our students and alums. Our students receive personal contact numbers for me and the director, ensuring they receive full support throughout their doula program.

What surprised you in the process of putting together a school/training program for end of life doulas?

One surprising thing I noticed as I was doing research for how I wanted to build the International Doula Life Movement was how many different learning styles I saw, and how many of those learning styles were not being catered to. I am passionate about making sure doulas have the support and the knowledge they need to best serve their communities. With this in mind, my goal became to create a comprehensive curriculum covering not just the practical aspects of end-of-life care, but also the emotional, spiritual and ethical considerations that are crucial to providing holistic support. As a result, this program is structured to ensure any individual, regardless of their prior experience, will be able to step into the role of a doula with confidence and a deep understanding of the delicate nature of this work.

With a mindfulness of the wide spectrum of different learning styles, our program incorporates a variety of teaching methods, including hands-on workshops, case studies, role-playing scenarios, and reflective journaling. Each mode of instruction is designed to cater to different preferences to ensure that visual, auditory, and kinesthetic learners can all engage effectively with the material and apply what they have learned in a practical setting.

What are you excited about for the future, and where would you like to see IDLM go from here?

I am excited to see a future where doulas have a solid training foundation that will give them the confidence and the abilities they need to provide the best possible support to families during one of the most significant moments of their lives. Death care around the world is changing right now, and it is a change that is needed. It is exciting to hear about the amazing life transformations that happen not just to families, but to the doulas as well.

It feels so encouraging to see IDLM going out to other countries, and the relationships being made between doulas globally. I am so inspired by the international spread of the International Doula Life Movement, especially when I observe the positive impact it has on creating global networks of support among doulas. This expansion is not only fostering a deeper understanding and respect for different end-of-life practices, it is also enhancing the collective knowledge and skills of doulas worldwide.

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