The Birth Companions program at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing (JHSON)—officially introduced in 1998—will celebrate 20 years of serving the community through free-of-charge doula services and supportive care for pregnant women and families.
Since the program’s beginning, more than 1,200 students have gained experience working in the role of a doula and nearly 2,300 women have received labor and delivery support. Birth Companions partners with more than 30 hospitals and agencies across the Baltimore-Washington area.
“We are proud to be celebrating 20 years of this advocacy-driven program that is truly about service to women and our community,” says Laura Lucas, DNP, APRN-CNS, RNC-OB, C-EFM, assistant professor and coordinator of the Birth Companions Program. “The students are incredibly passionate about the work, and mothers and families express sincere gratitude for the encouragement provided during one of the most transformative times in their lives.”
Through the 2-credit elective course, students learn theories of maternal-child and community health nursing. They are paired with a self-enrolled expectant mother and trained to provide supportive labor techniques like massage, breathing methods, body positioning, and hands-on techniques to use for labor. Birth Companions meet with the mother and family before and after birth, and accompany and advocate for her during labor and delivery.
In this unique role, students do not perform clinical tasks, but instead offer continuous positive support and physical comfort measures for the mother as she labors. Evidence shows that mothers who receive doula care have shorter labors, fewer cesarean sections, less medical interventions and use of pain medication, and improved feelings about childbirth. They are also more likely to breastfeed and experience lower rates of depression.
“What makes this program so worthwhile is that it teaches students the importance of simply spending time with patients and getting to know them as individuals,” says Patricia Davidson, PhD, MEd, RN, FAAN, dean of JHSON. “Having access to a free resource like Birth Companions is a tremendous benefit to our community.”
Also part of the Birth Companions program are students who speak various languages and can assist mothers from diverse backgrounds. In addition, the school collaborates with Baltimore’s International Rescue Committee to work with refugee mothers and families to support birth as they establish themselves in the U.S. and navigate an unfamiliar health care system.
Located in Baltimore, the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing is a globally-recognized leader in nursing education, research and practice and ranks No. 1 nationally among graduate schools of nursing and No. 2 for DNP programs in the U.S. News & World Report 2019 rankings. In addition, the school is ranked by QS World University as the No. 3 nursing school in the world and is No.1 by College Choice for its master’s program. First opened in 1889, the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing is celebrating throughout 2019 its 130th anniversary as a school and leader in nursing education and excellence. For more information, visit www.nursing.jhu.edu and www.hopkinsnursing130.org.