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The Important Role of the Infertility Nurse

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a blog by Eric Levens, M.D., Shady Grove Fertility Center, May 16, 2011

Last week was National Nurses Week, but the indispensable role nursing staff play in caring for patients is something that should be honored year-round.

Infertility nurses come from a variety of training backgrounds, but the vast majority have previous experience in women’s health care. Infertility nurses work diligently to help execute treatment plans and play an important role in supporting patients through the complex journey of infertility — from infertility diagnosis to fertility treatment to pregnancy.

What can you expect from your infertility nurse? As described in a previous blog, the initial visit to an infertility specialist often involves several essential tests including ovarian reserve testing, a hysterosalpingogram (HSG), and scheduling a semen analysis. The fertility nurses in my office work to aid patients in scheduling these appointments and to ensure that these test results return promptly. Unique to reproductive endocrinology and infertility, fertility testing and treatment involves specific timing around the menstrual cycle. For some patients, this may be unpredictable — requiring efficient and effective attention. To be an infertility nurse requires exquisite organization to care for the many patients that my team cares for on a daily basis.

Fertility nurses work tirelessly to execute treatment plans that fertility doctors formulate with couples starting at the initial visit. Frequently, infertility nurses instruct patients on how to administer the fertility medications. This is certainly true in my office where my nursing team provides outstanding teaching to couples, including how to administer subcutaneous and intramuscular injections. For many patients, this is the first time they have had to give injections to themselves. Understandably, this can create a certain level of anxiety, which nurses will skillfully help to reduce.

Scheduling treatment plans is more involved and complicated than many patients realize. At Shady Grove Fertility nurses also perform that important role. Again, not only is reproductive endocrinology and infertility a complicated subject, but the complexity of cycle timing adds another dimension that must be managed. Our nurses do such an outstanding job at making sure that treatment plans are effectively delivered.

The diagnosis and treatment of infertility involves significant stress that in several studies has been shown to be comparable to being diagnosed with cancer. Added to this stress is the cost of treatment, which all too frequently is not covered by insurance plans. In the end, an empathetic nursing team will work under stressful conditions to ensure that patients are compassionately and effectively cared for.

To this end, I want to recognize all infertility nursing staff for a job exceptionally well done and I hope each and every one had a wonderful Nurses Week and that we continue to work together to provide you a Fertile Future.

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