After more than a decade of getting calls about IBCLC eligibility, I thought I’d “heard it all” but on this particular day, I heard a very different story. I suspected the caller had misinformation on clinical hours. It seemed that she was really wondering if she had enough clinical hours to sit for the IBCLC exam.
Fears versus facts
She was fearful because, according to her unnamed source, she did not have enough clinical hours to sit for the IBCLC exam.
Having been in practice as a certified nurse midwife (CNM) for more than 25 years, she works part-time in a clinic. She spends her days doing what you’d expect any CNM would do, including but not limited to:
- diagnosing (including lactation-related conditions),
- prescribing medications (including medications for such ailments as mastitis),
- counseling mothers about prenatal nutrition and breastfeeding,
- determining whether the breastfed baby is making adequate weight gains
- assessing infant’s achievement of developmental milestones.
I listened carefully to her story, but I failed to see why she wouldn’t have enough clinical hours to sit for the exam.
I’m not a CNM myself, but I imagined that a CNM in that setting would spend at least 50% of her time with breastfeeding mothers, especially in her state where breastfeeding rates are high.
Using rough numbers, I calculated that if she worked 25 hours a week for 50 weeks a year, she would have accumulated over 1,200 work hours in one year. I further calculated that even if she spent only half of her workday helping breastfeeding mothers or couplets, she would still have accumulated some 600 hours during one year, and some 1,200 hours in two years.
In either case, that means that within 2 years, she could have exceeded IBLCE’s 1,000-hour requirement for Pathway 1 within 5 years. IBLCE’s requirement is: “Minimum of 1,000 hours of lactation specific clinical practice in an appropriate supervised setting within the five years immediately prior to examination application.”
I was stumped, and by now, I felt that she had misinformation on clinical hours. So I simply asked her, “What makes you think you don’t have enough hours?”
Some pesky 10% number
Someone had told her that only 10% of the hours worked in a clinic counted as “breastfeeding” hours.
I have never read or heard that.
Despite a thorough search of the IBLCE’s website, I could not find such a rule.
Even if I could have, I would have questioned it. One person’s role in a clinic might be very different from another person’s role, and hence the number of hours that would “count.”
Difference between academic requirements and exam requirements
Somewhere in this discussion, the caller said she had been denied admission to an education course because of her lack of clinical hours. That led me to believe that she might have confused academic course admission requirements with application requirements. Those are two completely different things.
Over the years, we have admitted hundreds or maybe thousands of IBCLC exam candidates to our 95-hour Lactation Education Course. Indeed, some have amassed hundreds of hours before coming to the course. However, we don’t require any specific number of clinical hours to sit in the educational course.
Some — perhaps many — candidates have come to my course even though they have accumulated no clinical hours at all.
Lessons to be learned
There are a few lessons to be learned here about what qualifies as enough clinical hours to sit for the IBCLC exam.
First, requirements for admission to a course may be different than requirements to sit for the IBCLC exam.
Second, it’s best to go the primary source for information; a friend, colleague, or other person might unknowingly mislead you.
Finally, don’t hesitate to call my office at 703-787-9894, even if you think you’ve been stopped in your tracks. We’re here to help you land your dream job.
What has confused you about whether you have enough clinical hours to sit for the IBCLC exam?