Death doulas had a moment during the pandemic, that moment has been happening ever since. Prior to COVID, not many even knew what a death doula was.
In the years since, we have seen some great growth in the industry as a profession – and by hospitals looking to partner with them.
What Is a Death Doula?
A death doula is a companion who provides emotional and practical support to a dying person and their families. This can include a variety of support that can include physical, emotional, and spiritual support.
It is important to note that death doulas are not medical professionals.
But they often work closely with medical teams to ensure that the dying person’s medical needs are being met.
Some of the non-medical support services they may provide include:
- Respite care provides some free time for primary caregivers who may feel overwhelmed
- Set up family meetings to ensure all parties agree on the care and support that will be provided
- Spend time with the terminally ill to keep them from feeling alone
- Run errands or do light housework
- Logistical planning for all end-of-life directives
- Help the family plan for a funeral, life celebration, vigil planning, or what is known as a living funeral
- Meet with medical professionals and workers from local hospices to make sure family requests are being carried out
- Frequent conversations with family members
- Help families and loved ones deal with the grieving process and emotional pain that comes during this difficult time
- Work with the patient to create scrapbooks or letters that they can pass down to the family
The exact support end-of-life doulas provide is going to be dependent on what the family wants for their loved one.
Every person deserves a “good death”, and that is exactly what your job is!
But, maybe you are not quite ready for something so sad. You can also become a life coach which is another great option if you really want to help people.
Becoming a Death Doula
There is no official accreditation, certification programs, or even prior training required to become a death doula.
The only prerequisite you really need is compassion and good personal skills to be able to support people during difficult times.
This means anyone can call themselves an end-of-life caregiver or death doula with no experience or training.
This can cause frustration for families who are not sure who to hire or what to look for.
We highly recommend attending a training program of some kind before starting your own business or working for someone else.
Some recommended steps to become a death doula include:
- Reach out to local death doulas to see if they would allow you to do an internship. This would really help you understand if this is a good career fit for you before investing too much time or money.
- Do some research to find a death doula certification program or training program. Visit the International End of Life Doula Association to find opportunities and courses you can take to become a professional death doula.
- Attend a program and take as many courses as you can that will help you improve your skills. All courses related to death education and how to improve personal and communication skills are recommended.
- If you want to work for another doula, then begin looking for local doulas that may be interested in hiring you.
- If you decide to work on your own, you will need to do all the paperwork to start a business in your state. Then you can proceed with a marketing plan that might include a website, mailing, or building relationships with like-minded businesses.
Becoming a member of an organization is also important to let prospective clients know you are serious about your business.
Here are two that you should definitely become a member of:
There is also the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization which can offer great networking opportunities.
Death Doula Training & Certification
There is no formal death doula training or certification required to become a death doula.
But some end-of-life doula training programs do offer death doula certification. Organizations such as the International Association of Thanatologists (IAT) and IAP Career School offer such certifications. But these are not governed or controlled by any higher organizations.
Some programs offer continuing education credits for healthcare professionals.
This can be a great way to learn more about death and dying and to help people during difficult times. If you are interested in becoming a death doula, there are many resources available to help you get started.
You can find programs and courses online or through local organizations. There is no one right way to become a death doula, so find a program that fits your needs and interests.
End-of-life doula training programs are also highly recommended for those that work with the terminally ill.
Even if you do not want to do it as a full-time career it can be useful training for hospice workers, nurses, or others who work with the terminally ill.
How Much Does Training Cost?
Most training programs will cost several hundred dollars.
Of course, this will depend on the exact training you take. For example, in-person training may be more expensive than online training.
- Training through the International End-Of-Life Doula Association has a cost of $695. This is for a program that is approximately 45 hours and can be done in a few weeks.
- If you are looking for free end-of-life doula training, you can check out CareDoula. They offer a mini-training program that has 4 parts.
- IAP Career College also offers a death doula certificate course for $189 that can be 4-12 weeks depending on the time frame you choose. Check out our IAP Career College review to learn more about this organization,
There are many options out there, so be sure you find the program that is right for you! Check if schools offer scholarships or payment plans if money is an issue!
While none of these schools are “accredited” they will provide potential clients with a feeling of confidence in working with you.
Where Do Death Doulas Work?
Most will work as independent contractors and do their own marketing and promotion to find clients.
While finding a full-time job in this field may be a challenge, there are ways you can try and build a full-time income.
- Reach out to a local hospice to see if they are interested in having a death doula on staff. Some hospice care facilities are starting to see the value and more are hiring death doulas to be part of their staff.
- Connect with funeral directors or morticians to see if they have a need for your services or could recommend you to overwhelmed families.
- Check with hospitals to see if there are any openings.
- Search online job websites like Indeed or Monster.
- Contact local death doulas that already have a strong client base and see if they need additional employees.
Death Doula Salary
Death doula salary ranges range from $50-$100 per hour.
Many death doulas are self-employed, so they can control how much they make. Salaries and rates will also vary depending on location and experience.
Keep in mind if you go solo you will need to pay taxes, marketing fees, gasoline, etc. This means you need to create pricing that is sustainable.
If you decide to work for an existing doula, you will make less than the hourly rates above.
At this time doula services are not covered by insurance. It is up to the patient to pay directly for services. This can make it challenging to find clients, especially when the economy is not doing well.
Check out our other recommendations for quick certifications that pay well if you decide death doula might not be right for you.
Death Doulas are in Demand
in 2019, there were roughly 200 members of the National End-of-Life Doula Association. Fast forward to 2023 and there are over 1,420 members across the world.
In an article by Time, it was noted that several training groups have tripled in enrollment in the years since COVID.
As families transition to more holistic care for family members and continue to do at-home hospice; end-of-life doulas will be more in demand.
Millennials are expected to drive change in the field with their desire to live a more spiritually focused way of life.
In an article from Yahoo Finance that talks about the booming death doula business, we meet 31-year-old Samantha Halpern. She decided to work with a death doula to create her own end-of-life directive. She is not sick and expects to live a long life, but wanted to make her family’s lives easier when the time does come. A death doula can assist with this process and provide guidance to the family with written directives for Ms. Halpern’s death.