Oooh, the mere mention of “exam” sends a shiver down my spine!

I always find it difficult to know where to start when it comes to studying or the IBLCE exam. I have sat the exam a few times now, and each time my preparation has been a little different.

When I sat the exam the first time, I did an IBCLC course that was all by written course work: multi-choice question and short answer items that we had to post (yes, post!) back to the course assessors. I can only imagine the workload of those course assessors, and am very appreciative of all the time and generous guidance that they offered! Back then the use of email and the internet for online articles was not what it is now (yes, it was the time of the dinosaurs!). In order to prepare for the exam I had to buy text books…expensive textbooks! Thankfully I was preparing to sit the exam with a few of my work colleagues, so we shared that expense and established out own study group.

As a novice, I think the study group was invaluable: it allowed us to share information that we had found and also to urge each other on when we lost sight of the end goal. We often would meet at our local Australian Breastfeeding Association branch office because they had a fabulous library of texts and articles, dedicated solely to lactation – it was our Aladdin’s cave! My friends and I would try to meet there once a week to study and share stories (oh, and sharing yummy food, some recipes and lots of laughter as well!). My friends were what helped me through the exam that first time.

When I sat the second time, things had changed. Many of my friends who sat with me the first time had moved away, and none were sitting the exam again. I was very pregnant with my son leading up the exam date, tying to tie up loose ends at work before going on maternity leave, and trying to ignore that fact that I had an IBLCE exam to sit less than 3 months after my son was due to arrive. To a degree, I felt I had lost my “community” and drive to sit the exam. I just didn’t know where to start. Enter Health-e-Learning and the beautiful Trudi Szallasi!

I had never studied with Health-e-Learning, but a few of my friends had and they loved it!  I had recently come to realise that the internet could be a fabulous source of information and you could connect with on-line communities easily. My very dear friend Trudi was a tutor with Health-e-Learning at the time and she suggested that I stop running around in circles worrying about my exam study, pull my socks up and prepare by doing the LP Course with Health-e-Learning… what fabulous advice, as was always the case with Trudi!

The LP course helped me to hone in on those areas where I needed to improve my knowledge and helped me to focus my study. And I absolutely loved the forums! I could not get over how interesting it was to hear about practices from all over the world and it was at this time I truly realised the “International” aspect of IBCLC! I loved how some students felt confident enough to post in the forums (I wasn’t so confident then!) and the tutors shared so much information. I only wish I had come to LP and Health-e-Learning sooner. By the time I sat the exam that time I felt well prepared, even if a little sleep deprived due to a small person dictating my waking hours!

So this last time I sat the exam, I didn’t waste time wondering where to begin – I went straight into the LP course to identify where I needed more revision and got to work. I really do feel that this course helped me to focus and, again, the forum became my community.

In those intervening years, I had learned so much as well. Trudi told me once that you only truly start to learn to be an IBCLC after you sit the exam and put all your knowledge into practice, broadening your view beyond the clinical and into the wider realm of lactation. Joining an IBCLC professional body is invaluable too, allowing you to be in touch with your IBCLC community and often with the added advantage of professional journal/library access. And yes, reluctantly I will admit that social media has a role to play in keeping up-to-date (even though I am hopeless at it!) but I often view it with a critical eye to ensure the information is accurate and relevant. Some of my other IBCLC colleagues use podcasts to revise - an interesting way to use time on long workday journeys.

I will always have those exam day nerves and think to some degree it helps me stay alert and ready for the exam questions. I do have to have some stern words to my head on the day, take a few slow breaths and tell myself “you have done a lot of work already and there is nothing more you can add in today that will change the outcome”. The reality is, if you have done study that follows the blueprint then you will do fine on the day…take a deep breath and dive right in!