Ever wonder what it is like working at an (international) IVF clinic? No?
Neither did I. Until we started battling infertility that is!
If you’re a frequent reader of the blog, you know that we traveled all the way from the US to Europe (Prague in the Czech Republic) for our IVF treatment back in December of 2017. We spent less than $4,000, including medication, so around 20% to 25% of what we would have paid if we went to a local clinic in the States.
IVF “tourism” isn’t for everyone. You have to be comfortable with international travel, being far away from home during a stressful period of your life, and dealing with possible language barriers between you and the staff at your chosen clinic.
Luckily, like most IVF clinics in the Czech Republic, the clinic I picked (GENNET) assigns you with an IVF coordinator who can help you navigate the IVF process. They set up your appointments, offer translations, and are there for you in case you need anything. Today, I’m interviewing IVF coordinator Karolina, who also happened to be my IVF coordinator.
If you’re interested in IVF abroad, make sure you scroll down to the end of this blog post for a discount voucher giveaway.
Please introduce yourself, tell us about your job and what a typical day looks like for you?
Karolina: Most of our coordinators have a university degree (languages, social communication, international relationships, tourism, and nursing). Coordinators usually start working for GENNET as assistants of the international patient office (taking care of patients before the initial consultation) and then get promoted to coordinators after getting the necessary experience.
Every day of a coordinator is different as we take care of approximately 90 active patients from all over the world, so we never know what the next day brings.
First thing in the morning we check the development of embryos in cultivation and provide our patients with information on how the embryos look. Also, the mornings are the time of egg
collections, so we have to make sure that everything is ready (including the bill, consent forms, results, preoperative examinations etc.). Then we accompany the patient to the operating theatre, help the anesthesiologist or embryologists with translation – or our assistants help us with that if there are too many patients at the same time. We also meet patients who come for an egg donation cycle to provide the sperm sample in the morning. Around lunchtime, patients having an embryo transfer come to the clinic. So the coordinator has to double-check that everything is prepared and we then accompany the patient to the operating theatre.
During the day, we respond to emails from our patients, discuss the results and scan reports with doctors, provide the patients with further instructions, arrange appointments for scans and other procedures. If a doctor does not speak English fluently, we are present during consultations, scans, and other appointments to assist the doctor with translations.
We also translate written feedback and reports from the doctor. There are also many patients who choose to have an egg donor cycle, which is more difficult to organize as it’s necessary to time everything correctly, we check whether the patient started synchronization, has the appropriate response, and started the stimulation on time. There is also lots of administrative work connected to our job, such as statistics, issuing of invoices etc.
What kind of person makes a great IVF coordinator?
Karolina: It’s necessary to like the job you do and to like to work with people. We have to be emphatic, friendly, flexible, communicative and easygoing. It’s also necessary to have really good time management, be responsible and reliable. As we work with many women who go through a sensitive treatment, sometimes there are hard times and we are between them and doctors, we have to be resistant to stress as all complaints fall on our side.
How did you get into this line of work?
Karolina: As mentioned above, the coordinators usually start working as assistants at GENNET. Some coordinators also worked at the reception previously (e.g. as a part-time job during University studies).
But most coordinators contacted the clinic via job advertisement or were recommended by a friend who already worked here.
How many coordinators are there?
Karolina: At this moment we have 4 Italian speaking coordinators, 3 German speaking coordinators, 4 English speaking coordinators and 1 coordinator who works for GENNET from Ireland.
Do only those seeking IVF abroad get appointed a coordinator?
Karolina: The local Czech speaking patients do not have a coordinator as the organization of their treatment is much easier. They visit our clinic for each appointment, so they get all information directly from the doctor or nurse. The patients who live in the Czech Republic but do not speak Czech do have a coordinator due to the language barrier, as well as Czech speaking patients living abroad as these patients are usually sending results in different languages and because there sometimes is a time difference.
How many clients do you handle?
Karolina: Each coordinator takes care of approximately 90 active couples all the time. Once a couple finishes the treatment, another couple becomes active, so we have about that number of patients all the time. The busiest time of the year is usually the summer, as people are coming when it’s annual leave season and the weather is nice. It’s also very busy before Christmas as everyone wants to have treatment before the end of the year – and then at the beginning of the New Year (as we are closed for Christmas, the patients usually can’t start the stimulation in December, so they start in January along with patients who would have started in January anyway).
Can you give a breakdown of where patients come from (per country or continent)?
Karolina: The patients come from all over the world, we have most patients from Europe, i.e. the UK, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Germany, and Austria. Then, also the USA and Canada, but there are also couples from other parts of the world. We had patients from Japan, Sri Lanka, Cayman Islands, Australia, Dubai… and many other places. But it’s hard to tell you exact numbers.
Do individual coordinators take on patients from specific parts of the world?
Karolina: We have 3 departments based on the language – English, German and Italian.
What are some of the things you think can be improved upon?
Mrs. Frugalcrib side note: I would have liked it if each coordinator had their own email address instead of questions being forwarded to a single general email address
Karolina: A general email address is used because if one of the coordinators is out of office (annual leave, sickness etc.) others cannot enter her personal inbox, so that’s why we have a shared email address and it seems to work best since 2012. Every coordinator has her personal cell phone, so if something urgent happens, she can be contacted by phone.
We would like to be able to answer all emails in one day but we receive over 300 emails daily (all departments together) and we have to prioritize ladies undergoing stimulation or after embryo transfer. Urgent emails are replied within 24 hours and the rest in 3-5 business days. This is the fastest response time we can offer due to all other work we have.
Tell us about the people that donate (eggs or sperm): how are they chosen, are there requirements, why do they do it?
Karolina: The selection of a donor is based on the requirements of the recipient. The couple completes a form during the initial interview which includes their personal information and preferences related to the donor. Based on this information, a unique software chooses the most suitable donor from our donor registry. Our priority is to choose a donor with the same phenotype as the recipient. We try to find a donor with compatible blood group and take into account other factors as well, such as body weight, height, hair and eye color and educational level.
Our donors are young people in good health aged 18 – 32 years with completed secondary education. They must meet very strict criteria that are determined by European Union (EU) regulations in order to donate eggs/sperm. Donors are often university students or young mothers. None of our donors are treated for infertility in our clinic.
Female donors must successfully undergo the following examinations:
- psychological interview
- genetic testing
- blood examination for HIV, hepatitis B, C, syphilis, Chlamydia, cytomegalovirus
- hormonal testing
- gynecological and ultrasound examination
- internal examination
- and the donor must repeat the gynecological examination, internal examination and blood tests before each additional donation.
The main criteria for acceptance of male donors are as follows:
- results of semen analysis meet all evaluated criteria
- results of the control examination of semen analysis meet all evaluated criteria
- no genetic diseases
- normal karyotype (chromosomal analysis)
- negative results of blood tests for sexually transmitted diseases (HIV, hepatitis B and C, Chlamydia, syphilis, HTLV)
- urine examination without abnormalities
- negative results of the control blood test for sexually transmitted diseases (HIV, hepatitis B and C, Chlamydia, syphilis, HTLV), which was carried out six months after the first test.
Donation of gametes is anonymous according to Czech legislation. We can, therefore, provide the patient only with limited information about the donors. The recipient and her partner will find out the blood group, weight, height, eye and hair color, as well as the education level of the donor. Any communication between the donor and recipients is forbidden.
What’s the best part of your job?
Karolina: The best part is definitely when we receive a patient’s positive pregnancy test result after the treatment and even more when they send us a picture of their newborn baby. We can then see that the effort was really worth it.
More to Come and Discount Voucher Giveaway
I want to thank Karolina for taking time out of her busy schedule to answer our questions. It’s very interesting to get a behind the scenes look into the workings of an IVF clinic.
The clinic has been generous enough to offer readers of our blog a discount voucher. I have a limited number of coupons available, so if you’re interested in getting 10% off your IVF package at GENNET (own eggs/sperm or donor), leave a reply below and I’ll get back to you ASAP!
EDIT: I’m all out of vouchers. Hope we got to make some of you happy alleviating the cost of treatment a bit. If you did not end up using your voucher, please let me know so I can regift your voucher to someone else.
As always, do your research before deciding which clinic to pick and don’t just look at the cost (besides, we did that already, see this blog post ). Whatever clinic you end up choosing, considering what’s at stake, it’s so important to know that they’re on top of their game, have good success rates, and make you feel comfortable. Especially when going abroad.