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Fertility Nurse of the Month: Andrea Speck-Zulak, RNC, Clinical Nurse Manager RN, NP
Oregon Reproductive Medicine, Portland, OR, July 2011
FertilityAuthority is pleased to honor Andrea Speck-Zulak, RNC, Clinical Nurse Manager RN, NP, as Fertility Nurse of the Month. Speck-Zulak is the Director of Nursing at Oregon Reproductive Medicine.
The Path to Fertility Nursing
A graduate of San Jose State University, Speck-Zulak began her career as a labor and delivery nurse. When she decided she wanted more, she became a women's health nurse practitioner in 1980 and worked in an Ob/Gyn private practice. She saw patients in all stages of their lives — from the 18-year-old getting her first Pap smear to the 80-year-old woman, and she was intrigued by infertility and assisted reproductive technology.
"After 10 years of being an Ob/Gyn nurse practitioner, I thought, 'Where do we go from here?' So I just kept moving backwards," she says laughing. "First I delivered babies, then I took care of women who were pregnant, and then I started making babies! So I took on this new frontier 18 years ago — I started doing fertility work and have been in love with it ever since."
Her work has taken her to both private practices and academia such as Stanford University, where she served as IVF and Donor Oocyte Clinic Manager.
The Hub of the Wheel
At Oregon Reproductive Medicine, Speck-Zulak is like the hub of the wheel that makes everything run. She is in charge of the nursing staff and acts as a liaison between all the different parts of the practice, such as andrology, embryology, the front desk, third party insurance, etc. "Someone needs to be sure that all those pieces are kind of working cohesively together, and that’s one of my roles," she says.
One of the things that Speck-Zulak has most enjoyed is looking at the "flow" of the fertility clinic— how to streamline processes and how to use lean health care concepts. "Lean health care doesn’t mean that you’re looking at ways to cut staff, it just means that you’re looking at ways to streamline work and help people be more efficient in the work that they’re doing," she explains. "On a typical day, I’ll be looking at flow and how things are working and troubleshooting how we can smooth our processes so patients have a seamless experience."
One example of streamlining is providing patients with easier access to nurses. "We don’t use voice mail — we have people that answer the phone, so that when people call in, they get directly to the nurses," Speck-Zulak says.
In addition to her administrative work, Speck-Zulak teaches and sees fertility patients. "During the day I may see some patients and do their scans and inseminations," she says.
She is also in charge of cancer patients who are seeking fertility preservation. "I will talk to them, coordinate their care, get them through the maze of doing fertility preservation," she explains.
Fertility preservation for cancer patients is a special interest she developed while at Stanford. "We had a lot of young, acute cancer patients with lymphoma and leukemia that were going to be have total body radiation and be done with their fertility. They were younger patients who maybe didn't have a partner and wanted to preserve their fertilitiy somehow. and that's how I got started with the egg freezing program at Stanford. We were doing that experimentally at the time."
Speck-Zulak was on the board of directors at FertileHope, a non-profit organization that helps cancer patients at risk for infertility. "When I came [to Oregon Reproductive Medicine], I said 'can we keep on going with this,' and they said 'sure.' So they've really done a wonderful job of supporting that process."
Speck-Zulak is responsible for the Fast Track program for women with cancer who want to preserve their fertility. "We guarantee basically that any cancer patient who calls and wants to talk about their fertility options will be seen within 48 hours," Speck-Zulak says. "And make sure they have time do a cycle if they want to and coordinate with their oncologist. Time is usually critical for them."
Her focus right now is to talk to oncologists directly about what Oregon Reproductive Medicine offers and how to help patients with fertility preservation. She makes presentations around the country on fertility preservation and other important aspects of women's health care.
A Love for Her Work
The fertility work that intrigued her so many years ago is still Speck-Zulak's passion today. "I love this work, I love the patients, and I love helping them through the process," she says. "What motivates me is to see a patient at the end, whether or not they're pregnant, feel like they have had a good experience in our practice and that they feel supported by the practice."
In addition, she loves to mentor the younger nurses and get them excited about what they are doing. "That's what's going to be here when I'm gone, so that motivates me, too."
Speck-Zulak's love for her patients, her practice and her work is apparent in everything she does. FertilityAuthority congratulates Andrea Speck-Zulak on being recognized as Fertility Nurse of the Month.
Nominate Your Fertility Nurse
In honor of these hard working nurses who hold our hands throughout our treatment experiences, FertilityAuthority.com will feature a dedicated infertility clinic nurse each month. You can nominate your favorite clinic nurse by clicking here. We will contact you if your nurse is chosen to be our Nurse of the Month.