As childbirth education came into bloom in the 1970s, few of us had to really try to fill our classes. Taking childbirth classes during the childbearing year was another thing on the checklist ~ very high on the checklist. Personally, I taught Monday through Thursday evenings, plus each weekend classes. And the classes were full.
Today, educators both community-based and hospital-based are struggling to have expectant parents attend classes. There are several theories of why childbirth classes are not as well attended as in years past, however there is little direct evidence (but perhaps plenty of anecdotal evidence) promoting any of the following:
- Childbirth classes are not meeting the needs of today’s expectant parents.
- There are other media that can take the place of in-person classes.
- Physicians discourage parents from taking classes.
- Parents do not see the use in taking childbirth classes especially with the advancement of pain meds.
Keeping these hypotheses in mind, the childbirth educator today can use these as the groundwork for developing strength as a childbirth educator and encouraging parents to attend. Here are five tips to assist in that process:
- Develop an “Evidence Binder”. We know what we teach is evidence-based and we also know that the evidence can change and improve daily. Select the 5-10 most controversial topics in your community and use those as “dividers” in this evidence binder. Then fill that section of the binder with evidence-based research (from literature or excerpts from books) substantiating the reason why you teach what you teach about that topic. Not only will this help you as an educator, but you will be able to physically show the evidence to whomever may have a question.
- Teach how you’ve always taught, but add more! There is somewhat of a disconnect between childbirth educators, technology and the expectant parent of today. How individuals learn has not changed – however the method of how that learning takes place certainly has changed. Becoming familiar with YouTube videos, websites, Pinterest, Instragram, apps and other virtual modalities and using those creatively can entice your clients to add to their childbirth experience.
- Know your demographics and be creative in your marketing. Since it is no longer assumed that all expectant parents attend childbirth education classes, perhaps having the top reasons for attending classes on a small card, postcard or brochure might be right for you. Visiting a website such as www.vistaprint.com will help you in your creative efforts from magnetic car signs to brochures. Many educators are now using business cards as they are less expensive and easier to place in a cell phone cover or wallet. When using cards, put more than your contact info on it – perhaps include the top 5 reasons to take childbirth classes! Tell them why they need you – because they don’t know what they don’t know!
- Become certified as a childbirth educator. Many hospitals have created their own specific curriculum for their childbirth educators. However, childbirth education is much more than sharing about the physical dimensions of birth. Childbirth education is a science which includes assessing our learners and their needs, crafting innovative teaching strategies to meet a variety of learner needs, exploring new ways of presenting information including using new class manuals or websites, and keeping the class’ attention so they’ll come back each week wanting more! Certification demonstrates that you have investigated this science and the organization you choose for certification must have their finger on the pulse of today’s learner and learning environment. There are many avenues for becoming a certified childbirth educator. Investigate them and see what works best for you and will make you a strong educator.
- Attend continuing education programs specifically designed for childbirth educators. Often as hospital employees, we go with our friends to the CE programs that apply to the jobs we have on the unit: fetal heart monitoring, CPR, etc. While important to the job of the staff nurse, these do not directly affect our work as childbirth educators. Attending regional or national/international childbirth educator conferences and conventions will not only provide you with evidence for your nursing practice, but also how that evidence can be applied to your work as a childbirth educator. Need help finding conference for the coming year? Go to the Events Calendar at www.birthsource.com for the latest in continuing education programs!