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How to Work as a Doula - Doula Outside the Box {5 in a 5 part series}

How to Work as a Doula - Doula Outside the Box {5 in a 5 part series}

The three most common ways to work as a doula are as an independent doula, as a member of an agency and with a doula collective.  However, there other ways to be a doula.  Many doulas have thought outside the box and created their own unique way that works for them. {For purposes of this blog I will be using the pronoun “she” as this fits the vast majority of doulas.  Males can be doulas too. Which is wonderful!}

There were four less common ways that appeared a few times in our survey about how you work as a doula which was completed by over 180 doulas.  These were: partnerships, volunteering, hospital based work and dedicated backup. 

How to be a doula


Doula partnerships seem to be gaining in popularity possibly due to the desire to have a more predictable schedule.  Doula partnerships are usually between two doulas.  The doulas often share everything from income to clients.  Many doulas in partnerships attend prenatal appointments for all clients.  The on call schedule is divided so that each doula has a known schedule for being on call.  When the client goes into labor the doula on call is the one that attends the birth.  The fees are usually split where the attending doula receives the major

The doulas in a partnership generally share the business responsibilities and make business decisions as a team.  Special consideration should be given to setting up contracts between the two parties so that the workings of the partnership are certain.  

Partnerships can be a great way to have more control over your business while preventing burnout of living life on constant call. 

Volunteer Doulas

Volunteering your time as a doula is another way to work as a doula.  Many doulas start their careers as volunteer doulas in order to get experience.  If volunteering with an organization or healthcare practice, doulas are often given set shifts and are not assigned particular clients.  They are available if needed during their assigned shift. Doula may also volunteer their services and follow the typical model of working with clients one on one.  Many doulas that work as volunteer doulas find the work very gratifying. However, volunteer work is not a necessity to being a doula.

Hospital Based Doulas

Hospital based doulas usually work as employees of the hospital.  They are assigned clients through the hospital program and can work with clients on a one on one basis or more commonly are assigned clients in labor.  Hospital based doulas can have the opportunity to work with a wider variety of clients than doulas in private practice.  Because hospital based program generally provide doulas for free, doulas are more accessible birthing women no matter what age or economic status.

While many doulas might enjoy working as a hospital based doula, the programs are not common.  One of the oldest program is at Lexington Medical Center in Lexington, South Carolina. In 2014, they reports to have provided doulas to over 8400 birthing families!


 Dedicated Backups

A dedicated backup is a doula that does not have her own clients, but rather only provides backup support for one or more doulas in her area.  Dedicated backup doulas are often paid a fee to provide backup support regardless of whether they attend the birth or not.  Having a dedicated backup doula in place can be a great asset to a busy doula.  Because dedicated backups do not take their own clients they are more likely to be available should they be needed. 

 Series Wrap-Up

It's the final blog in our "How to Work as a Doula" blog series. What did you think?  I'd love to hear your thoughts.  Please comment on an article.  If you liked the series share it with your doula network.  If you missed any blog read more here. 

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  • Alice Turner
Comments 2
  • kathy

    Thank you so much, Alice! I really appreciate all of your time, effort, and great ideas!

  • Susan Young
    Susan Young

    I really liked the series Alice. I liked how each one had an article but also a fun video. I appreciate how you teased out the benefits and challenges in each model. I also liked how you summed up this last one – if you’re doula work is not fitting for you, try a different model. That is great advice that may not occur to someone unless said explicitly. I look forward to more series that unpack other topics!

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