NON-MEDICAL SUPPORT. Doulas refrain from performing any clinical or medicalized tasks (e.g., monitoring vital signs, dispensing medications, wound care, etc.). This prohibition is fundamental to the role. For example, a retired hospice nurse who has trained as a doula should not call herself a doula if she is also dispensing medications and providing clinical care; rather, she is a nurse with doula support skills.
NON-JUDGMENTAL SUPPORT. The doula does not impose her/his values on the client such as acting on biases in favor of one method of giving birth or pre-conceived notions of what constitutes a “good death.” The doula does not presume that she/he knows best or somehow confers deeper meaning on the experience, but openly explores the emerging needs of the person/family, what is meaningful/important to them, and how the doula can best support them. Care is based on the client’s values and goals, even if those differ from values cherished by the doula.
FAMILY-CENTERED APPROACH. The individual and their family form the unit of care. Doulas do not take the place of partners, family members, or other care providers. Rather, they seek to support the optimal involvement of loved ones and all available services.
HOLISTIC CARE. Doulas recognize the biopsychosocial and spiritual aspects of the whole person and provide services in the context of this understanding. Holistic care can also involve information and referrals for complementary healthcare modalities if the client is seeking alternative approaches beyond those embraced by the medical model.
EMPOWERMENT. Doulas promote informed decision-making and foster maximum self-determination for the individual and family. They encourage self-efficacy and self-advocacy, based on identified values and preferences, rather than dependency. Doulas are not advocates per se and do not speak for their clients. Their role is better understood as that of a mediator who is facilitating good communication between all parties.
TEAM MEMBERS. Doulas are team players with a special role. The doula’s areas of expertise may overlap with that of other professionals involved with the client’s care, for example, a labor and delivery nurse, lactation consultant, or hospice team member. These overlaps are to be expected and need not lead to conflicts provided doulas practice good communication and defer to medical experts for concerns outside their scope. Doulas often have a better grasp of the full continuum of care providers who might be involved, as well as where gaps exist that create stress for the client and family. They help provide much needed continuity of care.