An embryologist’s holiday

November 25, 2010Carole 3 Comments »

An embryologist’s holiday often begins in the lab. After all, you can’t really put sperm and egg to bed (so to speak) and leave them alone for the weekend or holiday. Some labs close down for the big holidays and don’t cycle patients. This often makes patients unhappy because around the holidays, especially the longer winter holidays, patients can do IVF without having to negotiate as much time away from work.  Some labs cycle 24/7/365 which can make embryologists cranky unless the administrators are enlightened enough to hire enough staff so rotating weekend (and holiday) work is possible.

It’s not like embryologist don’t realize what they are getting into. I mean every job advertisement for embryologist says, “weekend and holiday work expected”. The best jobs also say, “on a rotating basis”. But in small programs, a single embryologist may be “rotating” weekends with themselves.

A friend asked me, “How do embryologists get through the holidays?” Well, first they explain to family and friends that they might not be free for the holiday or might not know until the last minute whether they might be late for the festivities.  In the best programs, holiday rotations are known well in advance so lab employees can plan. Still, embryologists are on call and may be paged to come in when needed. That’s fine unless it happens to be your turn to cook the holiday turkey….which can make for some really memorable holidays- not always in a good way!  Patient emergencies can also result in all hands on deck when a stimulation goes faster or slower than expected and the retrieval timing is such that holidays can’t be avoided after all.

For an embryologist, once the case starts in the lab, it continues for 3-7 days depending on when transfers and freezes are scheduled. This means your embryologist will be in to work every day to at least check on equipment, if not actually work with the embryos to assess fertilization, perform ICSI or hatching,  replace old embryo medium or freeze embryos. Physicians are, of course, present for the retrieval and transfer but your lab staff are present for those actual procedure days and also all the lab days in between.

Most embryologists love what they do and find the work very rewarding. However, the demands of clinical embryology can be hard on families. Unfortunately, I know a lot of divorced embryologists whose spouses just got fed up with all the missed family life for years on end. When you send your favorite doctor a thank you note with your new baby’s photo, you’ll make your embryologist’s day if you send them a little note and picture too. Everybody needs to feel appreciated. It makes the hard days easier and the good days even sweeter.

Happy Thanksgiving!

© 2010, Carole. All rights reserved.

3 Responses to this entry

  • Mora Says:

    When I had my first IVF+ICSI last December, I’ve just figured out how embryologists play an important role in making infertile couples’ dream come true: having baby (ies)! Eventhough my cycle didn’t succeed (our embryos failed to implant), I wish there will be more and more passionate embryologists who love their work just like you do. And if someday God grants us cute and healthy baby (ies), I will definitely send the photos to my embryologist. Thanks for sharing. 🙂 By the way, is it possible for a medical doctor (general practitioner) to be an embryologist?

  • Carole Says:

    Hi Mora,
    Thanks for sharing your story. About your question- yes it is possible for an MD to be an embryologist but it is very unusual for an MD to have a technical job like embryologist. In the early days of IVF, it might have been more possible because there weren’t specific training programs for embryologists- less possible now. They would most likely have to come from a lab research background to have any real technical skills. I have seen physicians with medical degrees outside the US take technical jobs in research labs or even embryology but usually that is their second choice if they can’t practice medicine. Embryologists don’t get paid nearly as well as IVF doctors and in many clinics – especially with short staffing- have to work many more hours than the MDs. So possible? Sure. Likely, no. 🙂 Wishing you Much Good Luck in the future on your path to parenthood!! Carole

  • lisa Says:

    Hi!!! carole thanks for sharing information :):):)

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