In 2014, the Rhode Island General Assembly authorized the Department of Health director to create a framework for the licensing of lactation consultants. In 2015, IBCLC Michael W. Fink of Memorial Hospital was first in the United States to be state-licensed to practice as an IBCLC. This is a breakthrough for IBCLCs all over the United States.
Isn’t My IBCLC Certificate Enough?
While the title IBCLC after your name gives you credibility, you are competing with a range of healthcare professionals and even lay people who may call themselves lactation consultants. Usually, state license guidelines and regulations clearly define who or who many not call him or herself a lactation consultant. This protects mothers from non-IBCLCs who call themselves lactation consultants, and also protects the IBCLC profession from unfair negativity caused by unqualified lactation consultants.
What Will A State License Do For Me?
The certificate you receive after completing the requirements to be an IBCLC only tells people you are qualified to practice what the certificate says you can practice. A license, however, can only be given by a government board. It means that the government has set a framework of rules and regulations for your profession that you need to comply with.
A license tells the people you work with that you are operating with the tacit approval of the government, and that you are accountable to a regulatory body for your practice. This converts the IBCLC profession into a credible part of the health professional network.
State Licenses Restrict the Use of the Term ‘Lactation Consultant’
Any person can research the requirements of an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) and find out how qualified any IBCLC is. Other healthcare professionals, volunteers, or lay people are not equally qualified. However, they can still use the term “lactation consultant.” State licensure would mean that the term was restricted only to a very specific group of people with certain qualifications. They may even require the IBCLC title.
State Licenses Allow Reimbursement Under Insurance Plans
The Affordable Care Act is a blessing to working mothers everywhere, and to the IBCLCs who help them. However, it does not define what kind of lactation consultant may be reimbursed under the Act. Other insurance providers, both private and those such as Medicaid, will only allow reimbursement of licensed healthcare professionals. This painfully limits the number of mothers who may wish to go to an IBCLC, but are not sure how the reimbursement will work out. A license will increase the number of mothers consulting IBCLCs.
State Licenses Require Accountability
Although regulatory bodies are often a pain, this is actually a good thing. Regulatory bodies make sure that unqualified healthcare providers cannot call themselves “lactation consultants” and hurt both the mothers and the IBCLC profession. IBCLCs will also find it easier to enter and defend their own practices with state licenses. The regulatory body also gives the IBCLCs automatic status among other healthcare professionals.
State Licensing Would Help the IBCLC Profession
The US Lactation Consultant Association is pushing for states to create the necessary regulatory frameworks that would award licenses to IBCLCs. At the moment, only Rhode Island has given out a state license. Other states are in the process of developing the required licenses. If it is at all possible to gain a state license, it would be the best thing as an IBCLC.