Thursday, May 14, 2015

Why IVF clinic staff need to be on their toes

The patient was crying as if her heart was breaking.  She was sobbing away and I asked her what had happened.  She told me, 'Doctor, I still remember my IVF treatment at my earlier IVF clinic. 14 days after the embryo transfer I called up the clinic to find out what my Beta HCG level was and the receptionist told me it was three hundred . I was ecstatic and on top of the world ! I felt that all my problems had got solved and I was so pleased that the IVF doctor had done such a good job.  And then after fifteen minutes I received the report from the lab by email, and the report came back as 3.0, which meant that I wasn’t pregnant.  I had that five minutes of joy because of a mistake which the receptionist made , and this was turned into heartbreaking sorrow once I found out what the truth was.'

Why can’t the staff working in an IVF clinic be more careful?  Why don’t doctors and nurses and receptionists working in an IVF  clinic  understand how much weight their word carries , and why what they say means so much to patients ? Patients actually hang on to their every single word , and try to interpret every fleeting smile or frown on doctor's face, because they are trying to mine it for meaning. The receptionist may never realise that what seemed like a simple mistake for her ( she had either read the wrong report or had missed the decimal point )  could have such disastrous emotional consequences for her patient ?  'Doctor, I think that the IVF clinic was a good clinic and I like the doctor there and I think that he did a good job and that he treated me with respect, but whenever I think of that clinic I remember that receptionist and how she goofed up . I find it very hard to forgive her and I’m never going to go back to that clinic again, Doctor.'

All people working in an IVF clinic, whether it’s the assistant or the receptionist or the technician, need to understand that patients who come to an IVF  clinic are extremely vulnerable and emotionally labile . Every little thing which either the doctor or the nurse says, and even a grin or a grimace, can be over-interpreted and analysed a hundred different ways .  Because we are dealing with patients’ feelings , we need to be extremely careful , and understand how fragile their hearts can be.  It’s a great privilege and an honour, but it’s also a great responsibility and all people working in an IVF medical clinic should understand the key role they play in their patient's life.

It’s very easy to justify these mistakes, but the damage they cause is completely disproportionate to what the medical staff member feels about her error. This is why we need to be so careful whenever we talk to our patients, and we need to weigh our words and calibrate our tone.  It can be a stressful job, but we need to remember that if we approach it with the right attitude, that it’s a privilege to work in an IVF  clinic where we can actually help people to have a baby , which brings so much joy into their life.  We need to be aware that we can cause a lot of inadvertent harm as well, and therefore we need to be on our toes all the time. We should not accept sloppiness or carelessness or, even worse, justify this carelessness by saying, 'Oh I was extremely busy', or 'I forgot' or 'I made a mistake'.  The consequences of these mistakes for our poor patients can be enormous , and we need to empathise and understand that.

Looking for an empathetic IVF clinic which cares about your feeling ? Please send me your medical details by filling in the form at so that I can guide you better !

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