A Qualitative Analysis of Experiences of Medical Students Serving as Abortion Doulas

Marit Anne Pearlman Shapiro, Lara Crystal-Ornelas, Britt Lunde

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Introduction: Innovative strategies are needed in clinical education to teach empathetic behavior and communication skills. This study aimed to investigate preclinical medical students’ experiences volunteering as abortion doulas and to understand the impact of their participation on their professional training. Methods: In this qualitative study, the authors conducted semistructured interviews with medical students who had volunteered as abortion doulas in March to July 2016. The interviews described motivations for participating, experiences volunteering as a doula, approach to caring for patients, and acquisition of communication skills and knowledge of abortion. The authors analyzed interview transcripts using a conventional content analysis approach, and themes were identified. Results: The authors performed 22 interviews. For most participants, this was their first exposure to an abortion procedure or patient care in any capacity. Participants identified acquisition of skills including patient advocacy, communication, and empathy that they were later able to apply throughout their clinical clerkships. This opportunity improved well-being and solidified their decision to apply for residencies in reproductive health fields. Discussion: After volunteering as abortion doulas, medical students were able to develop communication skills, empathy, and patient advocacy applicable to other areas of patient care. Preclinical students, potentially in other health care professions training, participating in patient care as doulas have the potential to further personal development, professionalism, and activism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)728-733
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Midwifery and Women's Health
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1 Nov 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • abortion
  • doula
  • medical education
  • preclinical


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