The following post is a guest post by Jennifer Johnson who writes on the topic of Nurse Practitioner schools. I asked her to write about this topic to give pregnant and breastfeeding moms, and those interested in pursuing a career in nursing, an idea of what nurses actually learn about breastfeeding in school. Thank you Jennifer for providing Breastfeeding Moms Unite! with this article. Disclosure: This is not a sponsored or paid post.
What nursing schools actually teach nurses about breastfeeding is limited in most nursing schools, unless, of course, the nursing student is studying to become a nurse-midwife at the master’s level. Chances are the best education a nursing student will receive about breastfeeding will be during their clinical rotations in obstetrics, and even that will depend on the type of initiative the nursing student takes, as well as what the RNs they encounter are willing to teach them.
Why? Because there’s so many other things to learn! In the classroom, BSN programs emphasize nursing procedures—nursing students learn general nursing techniques in learning labs, such as starting IVs, inserting catheters, dressing wounds, administering medications, patient assessment and checking vitals, and later apply them in real life during clinical training. Prior to procedural learning, nursing students take core courses in anatomy & physiology, pathology and pharmacology. Some nursing core courses cover breastfeeding, but only briefly. (emphasis mine).
The nurses I have encountered have said that the best information on the benefits of breastfeeding came not through nursing school but instead came through required continuing education (CE) courses they took either to maintain their nursing license or when it was required by the hospital when the nurse began working in a hospital’s neonatal unit. However, not every hospital makes CE courses on breastfeeding mandatory for nurses entering the neonatal unit.
That being said, some of the CE courses on breastfeeding are extremely informative! Check out this one I found titled “Breastfeeding: The Nurse’s Role” offered by South Dakota State University’s College of Nursing. The course is designed to educate nurses in how to explain the advantages of breastfeeding to a new mother, to emphasize the importance of breastfeeding immediately after birth, and even to demonstrate four positions to hold a baby for optimum breastfeeding. The first module even includes important information on the recommendations by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Dietetic Association that a mother should breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of a healthy infant’s life.
Another CE course I found for RNs was actually an in-depth Lactation Counselor Certificate Program offered through Healthy Children’s Center for Breastfeeding.
So what can we learn from this? We need to make our voices heard and push our local hospitals to require all nurses entering the neonatal unit to receive breastfeeding education training through continuing education. There needs to be a push for this practice to be written into hospital policy. Just remember that many hospitals already have this as a goal, but are having difficulty realizing the goal due to thin staffing models.
This guest post is contributed by Jennifer Johnson, who writes on the topics of NP Schools. She welcomes your comments at her email Id: firstname.lastname@example.org.