Tuesday, July 26, 2011


I have thoroughly enjoyed every class with my lactation students, but the "Exam" loomed in the heads and hearts of everyone throughout the course, well, the test is over.  Everyone can breathe easily, well, maybe not until October, but at least this step in the process is complete.  I don't remember the buzz on Facebook last year, I must not have been too active on the site, but I can say that none of the comments following the day-long Exam surprised me.  A sampling of posts on my site included:
"I'm not sure what I would have studied more. The questions were very confusing. I felt I did better with the pictures."
"I thought the picture questions were more difficult/challenging. There seem to be 2 correct anwers and/or no correct answer…."
"I was surprised by how much there was about viruses, and seemed like there was a lot of coverage in the photo section of low milk supply, risk of low milk supply, and pics of FTT babies. Maybe a little harder than I expected."
"nothing in test that hadn't been presented in our GOO class.....I also thought pic part was easier than the first part. the first part had alot with 2 right answers IMO and picking the BEST is always subjective with no background info. I just kept thinking World Wide exam!!! 

It was very different from what I expected. It was my first one though, so I have nothing to compare it to. The Health-e-learning courses and prep exam were great. I thought the photo paper was much harder (amazed that some found it easier! Go girls!) and some of the questions were just down-right confusing. But hey, it's done, and I just want to pass...100% would be great, but in the greater scheme of things, I can always try again next year if I fail, and I doubt anyone has ever scored 100%! Hoping for 70%!!!lol
I kept insisting to my class that the exam does not define them.  What defines them in this profession is how they problem solve by reaching down into their vast knowledge base, rely on case studies, summon help from colleagues,  research articles and books for a possible solutions--all in an attempt to help the mother/baby breastfeeding relationship.  

We all are too familiar with the scenario of someone passing the Exam only to fail at giving good advice and support to a dyad.  I had a pretty good idea of what the test would be like from my personal experience, but my goal was never to teach to the test.  I fulfilled my role as an instructor and IBCLC by preparing individuals to help mothers reach their breastfeeding goals.  Although I understood that Monday would come, I was more interested in the Tuesday-Sunday help my students would be giving following Monday!

The GOO Class has always been passionate about helping others and serving their communities and they brought that zeal into the classroom.  Many students were regularly seeing moms in clinics, hospitals, support groups or La Leche League and wanted to build on their experience and gain lactation specific education to better serve their local groups. What an incredible starting point.  We entered the semester with a passion and ended with conviction. Students learned about anatomy, nutrition, counseling, pathology, development, biochemistry, and the other suggested disciplines.  They participated in role playing, conference planning, research assignments and promotional productions--all as a means to understand the many roles of the LC. In order to relate to the communities in which they serve, they attended Moms Groups, La Leche League meetings, Coalition meetings, shadowed nurses in hospitals and visited their local WIC Clinics. The GOO Students received a well-rounded, thought out lactation education.  We celebrated their amazing accomplishments during a graduation ceremony that was attended by over 240 supporters--that was on Friday, then came Monday.

Why do Mondays ever have to come?  It was not a "reality check" there isn't anything "real" about the Exam.  In all my years as an IBCLC I have never assessed a mom by a picture she carried in her purse.  I have never had only "A, B, C, or D" to choose from as possible solutions to a breastfeeding problem, that would be much too easy.  I understand the assessment and the need for a certification process, but I do not want qualified individuals to be disheartened or labeled by this annual exam. I believe with all my heart that my students all did well, because they were all more than qualified to pass an "entry level" lactation test, but none the less I think the test has too much credibility at times.

Take another all-too-familiar scenario.  An individual works 9-5 in an arena where she sees moms...she charts those hours and qualifies to sit for the exam.  Her test taking strategies affords her the ability to eliminate distractors in the multiple choice answers and she narrows the correct answer down to two possible choices.  She "guesses" correctly half of the time and passes with a 75%!  Is it possible to become a Lactation Consultant without the skill to assist moms?  Yes.  Is it possible to work as an IBCLC and do damage to the profession by the service given? Yes.  Is it possible to add "RLC" after a name with little to back up the claim?  Yes.  Is it possible to be passionate, educated, prepared and eager to learn more in the field, yet fail an entry level exam due to its structure?  Unfortunately, yes...the system needs an overhaul, but until that happens, I applaud all the people who took the IBLCE Exam in an effort to support the profession and help mothers.  I am somewhat glad that the results are not available until October.  By then you will all be back at your posts helping moms and serving your communities and no one will pay much attention to how people fared as the results come in.  If you are not among the list of newly certified LC's rest assured, the test will be administered again next July and you will be all the wiser.  Until then, you are still my respected colleagues and friends. Moms are helped by people, not by letters after a person's name!
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