life, love, and maybe babies

Friday, July 10, 2015

Just Hear Me Out: 5 Things Infertility Clinics Can Do to Be SO Much Better

Going through fertility treatments is no fun for anyone. Not for you, not for your partner, not for your family. At it's very best it's stressful and at it's very worst it's damn near impossible to take. So, when infertiles go to a clinic or doctor that specializes in infertility, we expect...well, a lot. 

Hubs and I experienced two separate fertility clinics. One was here in our home city and one was several hundred miles away in Colorado. Both clinics had their weaknesses and their strengths, but I did notice a few of those weaknesses carried over through both clinics.

Now look, I get it. Infertility is a very common issue for couples (if the numbers I read are correct, 1 in 6 couples will be affected), so that means a lot of bodies in and out of the clinic doors. I understand the doctors and nurses are under extreme pressure to perform and get results, and that can be extremely stressful on them, too. So before I proceed, please know I am forever grateful for the work these people do. They are human, they are overworked (though certainly not underpaid) and they are probably never fully properly thanked for what they do.

But that doesn't mean there isn't some work to be done.

All that being said, here are a few pointers I think some infertility practices could use:

1. Just read the chart

You know what? Scratch that. Don't even read it. You can probably get away with just skimming it. Really. Right before you walk in to meet with a client, do a quick 30,000 foot view of her chart and catch yourself up quickly. I know you can't remember every single client that comes through your doors, but it takes literal nanoseconds to glance over the chart and see that the woman you're about to meet with has had a Fallopian Tube removed. 

And you were the doctor that removed it. 

By glancing at her folder and refreshing yourself, it will save you the mountains of awkwardness you would have experienced if you had said, "Now have you had an HSG yet?" The broken woman sitting on that cold, hard, uncomfortable table will love you forever if you come in even remotely up-to-date on her treatment thus far and ready to have a conversation about her current issues, not rehash ones that have already caused physical and emotional scarring. 

Before all of you clinics flip out on me and tell me how busy you are, I want you to remember that we all have jobs. We're all busy. Lawyers have many cases to keep track of. Interior Designers have many clients to advise. You don't get a pass on taking a little bit of time to re-familiarize yourself with a client just because you're a doctor. We all have to do a better job.

2. Smile (when appropriate)

The men and women you are seeing as a doctor or nurse are going through a hell of a lot. They are stressed and scared and sad and more sad. When you are speaking with a patient, a little smile goes a long way. I understand that some doctors are "just the facts, ma'am" kind of people, and maybe that's okay. But we're still all human beings, and a smile conveys care and concern. And that's sort of the business you're in. So try it out. You might be surprised how fast the walls come down and how much less you see eye rolls.

3. Phone calls matter

One of the reasons I left my first clinic was because I couldn't believe the lack of care that went into phone calls. Hubs and I went through two IUI's. Both of them failed. When I got my period each time, I had to call and let the office know that my cycle had started. Both times, this was basically how the convo went:

Me (barely holding it together): Hi, I'm calling to let you know that my cycle has started, so the IUI didn't work this time around.

Nurse: Okay, and so what will you do next? Another IUI or are you moving on to IVF or are you stopping treatment?

Me: Um, I don't really know. That's why I'm calling. I was hoping to talk to the doctor.

Nurse: Okay, I'll let her know and she'll get back to you. Thanks!

That, my friends, is not a good conversation. I'm calling to tell you that my fertility treatment DID NOT WORK and my running tally of failed months of trying to get pregnant has just gone up by one. I am sad and broken and let down and confused. It takes no effort for the person taking the message to immediately say, "I'm so sorry to hear that. I know that's a difficult thing to experience. Let's take a look at your chart and see what our next steps will be."

And if that's hard for you to do, then maybe you should consider another line of work.

4. Your office decor matters

This is probably close to my heart because I'm an interior designer and I think about these things. But really, this should be in the forefront of every doctor's mind when they're opening a practice.

You are dealing with women who may OR MAY NOT ever get pregnant. Is it wise to put a woman who's been through 5 miscarriages and 2 still births in a waiting room for up to 20 minutes where she has to stare at pictures of sonograms and successful pregnancies and babies plastered all over the walls? I'm going with no.

I certainly understand that clinics want to show their successes. After all, that's why they help us! The doctor wants you to see that there is hope and they can help couples achieve their dream of conception. But those successes are better touted on a website or a pamphlet. By the time a couple comes to your clinic, they've already done the research (hopefully). They know what you do and that you are successful. That's why they are there.

I'm no expert on doctor's offices, but I would imagine it's difficult to have rooms reserved only for women who will ultimately never have kids. You as a doctor aren't a fortune teller so you can't possibly know. So maybe it's better to err on the side of caution and just choose neutral decor that doesn't have the potential to trigger anxiety attacks. I'm certainly not opposed to a picture here and there of a baby, or even a "wall of success". But let's not put it front and center of the waiting room, mmk?

5. All infertiles are not created equal

Like it or not, you as a doctor at an infertility clinic are in the business of exceptions. What does that mean? It means that every couple who comes through your door is going to be different than the couple before. This is not a prescriptive realm you're in. For some doctors, they see patients who have strep throat or the flu or a broken arm. Those patients are likely going to have very similar treatments to cure what ails them.

Not infertility.

The original clinic we visited reviewed our files and the doctor told us on our very first appointment, "what we do here is three months of Clomid, followed by three tries at IUI, and if that fails, we move on to IVF." And that was that. What that doctor didn't take the time to do was first ask me if I'd had an HSG. After months of Clomid treatment, we discovered I had a blocked right tube that was cleared through an HSG. Ovulation through Clomid doesn't do a lot of good if I've got a tube with a traffic jam in it.

In reality, there is no "this is just what we do" when it comes to infertility. Every case is different and every case deserves to be looked at closely. Infertiles pay a lot of money to be treated, and they deserve for their situation to be evaluated. You wouldn't expect a realtor to approach selling your condo in the same way they'd sell an acreage. Period.


I realize it sounds like I'm knocking fertility clinics, and really, I'm not. I know these people literally perform miracles. If it weren't for my clinic, I wouldn't be pregnant right now. But ultimately, we all have to strive to be better and we can't do that without feedback...

...which is why next time I'll blog about what infertiles can do to make their nurses and doctors' lives easier.

Dun dun DUN.

XOXO, lovelies!

1 comment:

Lori Braun said...

Thank you so much for saying what I think most of us have been thinking! Number 3 especially struck a cord with me!

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