Stephanie Biggerstaff, RN, IVF Coordinator- PREG Spartanburg shares her experience as a nurse and IVF Coordinator at PREG.
Stephanie, what is your role at PREG?
My main role as a nurse at PREG is to make sure our patients get all the information they need for treatment so they have a smooth and pleasant experience as they go through their fertility treatments, which is quite an emotional roller-coaster for them. Whether it’s an IVF cycle or an ovulation induction cycle for timed intercourse or IUI, I’m here to help them through the process both clinically and emotionally.
In our Spartanburg location where I’m located, I work with patients going through different types of treatment, not always just IVF. Even though my primary role is the IVF coordinator here, I typically work with almost all of the patients that come through our office in one way or another.
What’s your role as an IVF Coordinator?
Primarily, as an IVF Coordinator, I educate the patients on what to expect during their IVF cycle and provide medication education or injection teaching to them, as well as a lot of counseling as far as just trying to be there to listen to them and help them through the process. I perform ultrasounds on our patients for monitoring during their cycle, to see how they are responding to their medication, whether that be an IVF cycle or otherwise. If our lab tech is not available, I have also drawn blood for their lab work. I call patients with information on their treatment plans and try to keep them updated on what’s happening with their cycle and understand what the next steps will be.
A lot of my time is providing direct communication with them and providing the emotional support they need – which is where the counseling comes in. I serve as their advocate, so I’m their “go-to” person for questions they have during their treatment. Many patients dealing with infertility don’t have many people to talk to or just don’t feel comfortable openly discussing that aspect of their life with friends or even family. So as an IVF Coordinator, I really develop a bond with a lot of patients as I talk with them. Sometimes they just need someone to listen, because they feel like they can’t talk to anyone else.
Did you ever think you would be doing this when you were in nursing school?
I knew very early on in my clinical rotations that I wanted to be involved in women’s health, but at the time didn’t even realize there was a separate specialty for infertility. I started my nursing career in OBGYN then later transitioned into labor and delivery, where I worked for a couple of years. Early in my nursing career though, I became aware of PREG. Many of the OBGYNs that I worked for would refer their patients here and then I would see those patients come back once they were successful in pregnancy, to follow them through to delivery. Many years ago, Dr. Nichols used to see his Spartanburg patients in the office suite just across the hall from where I was working in OBGYN. So I became pretty familiar with who PREG was, but still never had any idea that I would end up here and spend much of my career here. Later on, while I was working in labor and delivery, an opportunity opened up & I jumped on board. I’m so very grateful to be here & this April will be 13 years for me at PREG!
How has PREG grown since you’ve been there?
At the time I started at PREG we only had our Greenville and Spartanburg locations and Spartanburg had a much smaller patient volume than it does now. PREG has grown so much that now we have five locations that show you how great the need is for infertility treatment. Thankfully, infertility treatment has become widely known and accepted and also more accessible for people without having to travel such long distances.
You have a lot of roles in Spartanburg but what is your sweet spot? What are you passionate about?
Definitely working with IVF patients. I still have a lot of interaction with patients leading up to IVF, but IVF is definitely my passion and sweet spot because you develop such a close relationship with these patients even though for some you may not see them for quite as long. It’s a very personal matter and has so much emotion tied to it. That’s really the case with really any type of treatment here, but IVF patients have so much invested financially and emotionally, you really become close to them. Unfortunately, IVF still has quite a stigma attached to it and so many patients never saw themselves needing that type of treatment. It’s nice to be able to help them through the process and realize that it’s not as scary as it seems, that they can do this – that they did it! It’s so fulfilling to see these women, or couples achieve pregnancy and watch their much-awaited dreams come true. I love to see the happy endings and it’s special when patients keep in touch and reach out to update me during their pregnancy, to let me know the gender of their baby or they send a birth announcement or family Christmas card to the office. Or even better, when they bring their baby to the office so we can see them in person! It’s so rewarding to see the product of what they worked so hard for.
What about the heartaches?
Definitely, the worst part of the job is the heartache I feel as their nurse. When I have to give them the news that they’re not pregnant or their pregnancy isn’t progressing normally. It’s heartbreaking to them, and to me. They’ve got so much invested and those phone calls or discussions face to face are really hard. It definitely has an emotional impact on me. I’ve shed many tears with my patients and for my patients, even when they don’t see it. Thankfully, the tears aren’t always sad ones. It’s an exciting day at PREG when our patients “graduate” because they’ve been successful in their treatment and we get to say, “Ok this is the last visit here, you get to go back to your OBGYN so they can follow you for the rest of your pregnancy.” It’s a bittersweet moment for our patients and for us. Many don’t want to leave our care because they feel like family here. But I’m just so happy that I’ve been able to share this journey with them and that we could help them.
How do you feel about the staff after all these years?
I love our staff! Each and every staff member has an important part in the patient’s experience at PREG and I think we all do a great job at taking care of them. Spartanburg is a fairly small office, so our staff size is smaller. We are a very tight close-knit family, and we’re very supportive of each other. It’s great to know you have co-workers, and friends, who will step in to help out any way they can when it gets busy or you’re having a hard day. You know, we spend more time together than we do with our families, so I’m blessed to have a wonderful group of ladies in this office who really care about each other, and our patients.
How do you attack your job given all that you have to do?
Prioritize. Figuring out what needs your immediate attention, what patient or situation is a top priority at the moment just depending on the situation. Believe it or not, that’s not always the patients that are physically in the office at that moment. We definitely try to run on time & I think we do a great job with that, but things happen & other situations come up that have to be handled. I’m in constant contact with so many patients, by phone, email, or in-person every day. You have to be organized and able to multitask. Some days are more overwhelming and busier than others, but ultimately you have to have good communication skills and be compassionate with patients and remind yourself – why am I doing this? I’m here to help my patients and I want them to be successful and feel supported through the process. I try not to let the volume of work take over my intentions of why I am here. My best approach is to take my time with each patient, on the phone or in the office, and know that most appreciate the individualized care they get when it’s their turn. They are the reason we are here! It can get tough trying to manage everything and can be very stressful – mentally and emotionally, but it’s very rewarding!
Stephanie is a Georgia native, she is married and has two children, and is very active in her church. She says, “Between work, the kids, and church events it’s a busy life, but it’s good and I love it!”
PREG has centers in Greenville, Spartanburg, Asheville, Columbia, and the Lowcountry where we offer highly personalized fertility care and management. Our IVF centers are located in Greenville, Columbia, and Lowcountry.