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Career Story: Lactation Consultant At A Large Hospital

Lactation Consultant At A Large Hospital

Job Title: Lactation Consultant In A Hospital With 7,000 Deliveries Per Year.

Type of Company: I work for a community based for-profit hospital that serves as a tertiary care center (which gets referrals, that is, from surrounding counties) for advanced care.

Education: BS, Nursing, University of Florida •• MN, Pediatric Nursing, University of Florida

Previous Experience: I worked as a public health nurse for a maternity-infant care project that covered nine rural counties. My first job was to be a hospital clinic nurse in a large metropolitan area.

Job Tasks: I help mothers breast feed their newborn babies. There are serious health risks associated with not breast feeding, for both the baby and the mother. Breast feeding reduces the risk of developing infections, high blood pressure, diabetes and certain cancers. And while it is a natural thing, it requires some learning . . . much like learning to ride a bike. It can be easy for some people, but others need to practice before it seems entirely natural. Some mothers develop sore nipples and their babies do not gain weight adequately. Other babies fall asleep while breast feeding and end up nursing all the time. To avoid these problems, I see mothers while they are patients in the hospital and some who come back for assistance after they have gone home. I work with mothers who are nursing their babies wherever they might be in the hospital: on pediatrics if the baby is admitted or on an adult unit if the mother is ill. I get called in to see mothers when they come into special care clinics for follow-up care if their baby has a high-risk condition such as heart disease or a birth defect. I also provide training for staff nurses at two two-day in-services each year so that everyone working with new parents gives the same information. It is a very rewarding job where no two days are the same!

Best and Worst Parts of the Job: The best part is the wonderful feeling you get by helping people adjust to having a new baby. They are usually very open to your suggestions and you know you are making a difference.

The worst part is trying to help people who don't speak English. We have some live translators and we use a telephone "Language Line" for most languages other than Spanish, but it is frustrating to know that it makes it difficult for them to ask questions.

Job Tips: Make certain that you are being hired to provide lactation services. Some people who are nurses and lactation consultants end up doing the work of a nurse and don't get to help with breast feeding because they are too busy passing medications or working with mothers who have had caesarian sections.

Additional Thoughts: The most important quality is a willingness to start where the family is. Each case is different and the only way you can discover what will be the most effective way to help is to ask open-ended questions (such as "How may I help you?" or "What is it you'd like help with?" and then LISTEN. You cannot give handouts and speak from a script; tailoring your education to meet the needs of the patient first is the what works.

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