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What You Need to Know as an IBCLC Working as a Peer Counselor

Woman working as a peer counselor

Can you work as a peer counselor as an IBCLC? The easy answer is “sure.” The key is to perform your duties according to your job description but realize that you always come with your “other” knowledge, certifications, and credentials as an IBCLC working as a peer counselor. While it is possible to work as a peer counselor once you have obtained your IBCLC certification, there are some things you should consider.

IBCLC certification and current job role

If you are an IBCLC working as a peer counselor, you currently have more certifications than your current job/role requires. There are hundreds — probably thousands! — of people walking around with that situation! Let me give you an example in my own life.

For several years, I was employed as a clinical nurse specialist in a major medical center, and I carried out my responsibilities there 5 days a week. On the weekends, I worked as a staff RN in a community hospital. Was I overqualified? Absolutely! I had multiple degrees and multiple certifications which were unnecessary for a staff nurse yet I was (happily!) functioning in that role on the weekends.

Authorization and job description

If you’re an IBCLC working as a peer counselor, you’ll need to seriously consider and determine whether you are authorized to give advice as an IBCLC would, or does your current job description prohibit you from doing that? Further, you must fulfill the obligation that is spelled out in your current job description. You need to have a chat with your boss.

If you’re an IBCLC working as a peer counselor, it is not possible to suddenly “un-know” what you know from your preparation to become an IBCLC. This is fairly common. We all go into our jobs with our past knowledge, skills and experiences, if you get my drift. A more pressing issue would be: Are you completely fulfilling your role as a peer counselor?

Keep in mind that I am not an ethicist, and I am not an attorney. Your supervisor or human resources department can answer these questions regarding an IBCLC working as a peer counselor. Again, I would urge you to have a candid discussion with your supervisor. Your supervisor(s) needs to be completely happy with your performance in the role for which you were hired. If they are not, that’s another whole issue!

Liability

Repeating, I’m not an attorney. But It is my understanding from attorneys that each person is held to the level of his or her highest certification or credential. So if you’re an IBCLC working as a peer counselor, let’s say you tell a woman to wean during an episode of mastitis. Presumably, you would be held accountable as an IBCLC, even though you were not in that role at the time when you said it. Whereas a WIC peer counselor may not be expected to know that information, an IBCLC would be expected to know it. You can see where being IBCLC working as a peer counselor puts a different spin on things.

Job satisfaction

Also, in the long haul, ponder your own job satisfaction. And, decide if you want to be paid peer counselor wages when you’ve got IBCLC skills. If you desire to have a larger role, or work in a role as an IBCLC, talk with your supervisor.

Have you been an IBCLC working as a peer counselor? Did you run into any of the issues mentioned above? How did you solve those issues? Share your thoughts below!

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5 Comments

  1. Maggie Allen

    I have worked as a peer counselor for the past 20 years, being certified as an ibclc for 7 years. I give information as an ibcl. I also do work outside of my current job whenever I have a chance. The pay sucks at my current job and I don’t feel as if I’m paid what I am worth. But, I love the hours and the flexibility. I am not usually questioned about the information I give but when I am I always go to the most current information.
    FYI
    I love the work you do. Thank you so much

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Thanks for reading, Maggie! Hours and flexibility are definitely a bonus, even when the pay isn’t great. Please do contact my office if I can help you to expand your opportunities to use your IBCLC certification more widely.

  2. Rachael

    The answer to this question may also depend on the state where you live.
    Someone with additional education and certifications may no longer be considered to be a true ‘peer’ of the average WIC mom and may not be hired for the position b ew cause they are overqualified. However, If one is already employed as a peer helper (in Ohio we are not allowed to call ourselves peer counselors) and wants to take classes for extra knowledge and experience, it’s not completely discouraged.

    • Marie Biancuzzo

      Thanks for your comment, Rachael. It sounds like you’re saying that if you are already a peer helper in Ohio, then it’s okay to obtain your IBCLC and continue working, but that it might be more difficult to gain employment as a peer helper if you have already obtained an IBCLC certification? Thanks for this insight; I probably wouldn’t have known this otherwise!

  3. Rachael

    That’s my understanding. I earned my CLC after starting work as a peer helper. I’ve been reluctant to go on and work toward taking the IBCLC exam because I can’t use WIC funds to help with the cost, my pay will not increase with new added credentials, and without also having an RN I wouldn’t be qualified for any local hospital positions.

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