A resounding NO to that one! No, you do not need to be a nurse to become an IBCLC.
As a nurse, it’s hard for me to imagine how a non-nurse could possibly acquire the knowledge and skills to become an IBCLC. However, just recently we heard from one of my course attendees; she got 91% of the questions on the IBCLC exam correct – on her first try! We were thrilled for her!
In good company
So yes, of course it can be done. Look around. I can immediately think of people who are IBCLCs, but not nurses. I’m thinking of people like Linda Smith, Barbara Wilson-Clay, Kay Hoover, Kathleen Kendall Tackett, who have my profound respect. And they are, by anyone’s standards, exemplary in their work.
Here’s more good news on this. We have offered the Felix Biancuzzo Scholarship for aspiring lactation consultants since 2010, and I’d be inclined to say that half or more of the scholarship recipients have NOT been nurses. Yet, all have demonstrated outstanding competencies and characteristics which our review team felt exemplified those for tomorrow’s.
Different backgrounds, similar challenges
I’d say that hundreds of non-nurses have taken one of my courses. The non-nurses are, in many respects, just like the nurses. Some are overachievers, some aren’t. Similarly, there are some who are good test-takers, while some aren’t. Some do the minimal amount of work required, others immerse themselves in for the fullest learning experience they can have.
Many non-nurses have taken my Lactation Education Course and/or taken my Lactation Exam Review course. Without looking in our corporate database, here are just a few examples that come to my head for those who are not nurses:
- chemical engineer
- dental hygienist
- elementary school teacher
- marketing expert
- medical transcriptionist
Finding your own path
There are those who are not nurses but are considered healthcare professionals, such as registered dietitians, and others. Generally, those non-nurses that I’ve encountered qualify through Pathway 3 – it’s usually the best fit for them – but every IBCLC candidate needs to understand what is involved in each of the Pathways.
For those of you that are already IBCLCs, what field were you in prior to certifying? How has your previous experience helped you in your journey? Tell me in the comments section below!