A day in the life of a Clinical Embryologist

A Clinical Embryologist is a highly qualified scientist with postgraduate studies and extensive training in the field of IVF.

Being a Clinical Embryologist is one of the most wonderful and rewarding jobs. Not many people can come home in the evening knowing that they have done their best to help create a dream!

Every day offers us a rollercoaster of emotions, from happy moments, when delivering good news to very difficult and heartbreaking conversations, when having to deliver bad news. Many a times we wish to be able to see into the future and reassure our patients. But as this is not possible, for the time being at least, we settle for the next best thing: offering our support and expertise to our patients, who know that we will be there for them every day answering their questions regarding their eggs, sperm and embryos and putting their minds at ease.

Our day always starts in a similar way: a quick team meeting to get the daily rota and a briefing that each team member must follow. Good communication ensures good team performance and keeps the workflow moving efficiently.

We then enter the laboratory and check that every piece of equipment performs appropriately. This is to ensure that your eggs, sperm or embryos remain safe at all times. Once we are satisfied that incubators, fridges, microscopes etc. are performing as they should we begin preparing the reagents for the day for each of our assigned stations.

The work in the embryology laboratory involves different processes happening in parallel by different embryologists. These include, vaginal egg collection, surgical sperm retrieval, sperm preparation, embryo assessment, embryo warming, embryo freezing, egg freezing, sperm freezing and embryo transfer.

In the morning we begin with vaginal egg collections where we retrieve your eggs in the theatre with the medical and nursing teams. At the same time the sperm is prepared and assessed if suitable for IVF or ICSI.

Early in the morning we also prepare the warming of your embryo if you are planning to have a frozen embryo transfer. If we had egg retrievals the day before we assess the eggs for signs of fertilisation and we will contact you to deliver the good news (followed by a secret triumph dance when results are good!) and book your embryo transfer date.

At the same time, another clinical embryologist is assessing the embryos for the patients that are having an embryo transfer on the day.

We will contact you to inform you on the quality of the embryo(s) selected for the transfer and if there are any surplus embryo(s) that are suitable for freezing. From the day of the vaginal egg collection to the day of the embryo transfer the embryologists will call you 2-3 times to provide you with embryo updates and how your embryos are developing.

The morning is completed with a meeting with you and your partner if you had your eggs collected. We particularly enjoy those talks because they give us the opportunity to ‘bring’ the patients into the laboratory through our ‘embryo journey’ update and answer any questions you might have (it also helps keep Dr Google at bay!). Patients do enjoy this part of their journey as they get to know what to expect from the embryologists, how the embryos are being looked after and when communications take place.

Lunch break is followed by the fertilisation procedures and embryo transfers.

The eggs that were collected in the morning are fertilised either by insemination though standard IVF or injection through Intracytoplasmic Sperm Injection (ICSI). The latter involves injecting each mature egg with an individual sperm under a specialised microscope. At the same time in the theatre embryo transfers take place, where the selected embryo(s) are transferred into the patient’s uterus for implantation.

The day ends with culture dish preparation for patients that are coming through the next day and a check that all procedures have been carried out for the day.

If you call and we don’t answer immediately this is because we are in the laboratory looking after your embryos! When time allows it during the clinical duties and towards the end of the day we return all the calls with general queries or messages that you might have.

Each one of our colleagues appreciates how important our job is and how imperative it is for every procedure to be carried out in a correct and timely manner. This is a profession where human error is just not accepted, and we have very robust systems in place to ensure that everything runs smoothly.

Every process is ‘witnessed’ and recorded by our trusted electronic witnessing system (some processes require an additional witnessing step) and every embryologist is hardwired through experience to check everything multiple times throughout the day and not go home until a final check is done.

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