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How patients feel about their experience in their fertility clinic

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I have been continuing to run my survey in my support communities on emotional support in clinics.

I wanted to hear directly from the patients I support (over 4,000 across my support communities) about how they felt going through treatment, the emotional care and support they received, things that their clinic did well or could improve on, and what they would love to tell their fertility doctor if they could be completely honest with them.

As a qualified Personal Development Coach, I offer bespoke training, coaching and mentoring to staff in clinics, and help them implement support strategies for patients, so I want to make sure that I understand what really matters to patients, on an ongoing basis, and help clinics deliver on this.

The responses have been really insightful and are helping me build up a deeper understanding of how patients would like their clinics to support them.

The aim of the survey is to identify the areas where clinics can increase the support they offer patients, but it also looks at the positive experiences too, so I can learn from best practices, and there are a lot of very positive comments where support has been excellent, and staff are often seen as miracle workers, especially when patients have a positive outcome.

Unfortunately, the results are showing that there is still not enough focus being put on emotional support in clinics:

  • Respondents rated the emotional support they have received from their clinic as an average of 5 out of 10 (this has dropped from 5.2 at the end of last year). Nearly 12% rated the support at 1 or less.
  • 55% of respondents felt that their clinic doesn’t have a culture of support that is followed by all members of staff.
  • 65% would like to see better links to support services and 65% would like their clinic to have a support group they can access.
  • A lot of the feedback has been about wanting to be treated as a person rather than a number.
  • Screenshot 2020-07-16 at 12.42.59

    The comments around how support could be improved included:

  • More communication and information through the process - at all points, in particular the TWW.
  • More empathic communication from all members of staff.
  • Allow more time in appointments to ask questions and for support to be given.
  • Better understanding of the day to day impact of infertility, and sensitivity to peoples emotions.
  • Highlight the access to the counselling team more, and actively encourage patients visiting them.

  • I've spoken to a lot of patients during the Covid-19 shutdown, and these issues are even more relevant now. This time has been really tough for them, after a long and difficult journey already, the uncertainty about how much longer they could be waiting for treatment has had a big impact on their emotional wellbeing.

    Patients are scared, vulnerable and feeling very out of control. Many are still waiting for their treatment to start again, and they are concerned about the long term impact of the shutdown on their ability to have children.

    A recent study by Cardiff Fertility Studies on the experiences of clinic closures due to Covid 19, showed that 'Almost all participants reported significant stress, worry and frustration at the situation, with a minority reporting intense feelings of hopelessness.

    These feelings unfortunately won't disappear when clinics open. The worry about the delay to treatment is continuing, the loss of control has been heightened during this time and many still feel frustrated that their treatment still hasn't started yet.

    Emotional support and clear and empathic communication is even more important for your patients at the minute.

    I understand that you may not have all the information, or be able to give everyone the answers they want, but it is really important to keep up communication with patients, even if you are not sure yourself and the situation is changing regularly.

    It will make a huge difference to how your patient feels going in to treatment if they fully understand the situation.

    Communicate regularly to reassure patients and advise of any changes to guidelines, start dates and what processes you have in place.

    Use all your channels to share information so patients feel fully informed - website, social media channels, text, emails and patient portals.

    If you would like more information on the support I offer clinics and how I can help you support your patients, please email me at [email protected].

    The data recorded from the survey also includes the clinic they had treatment with, so if you would like to know if I have more specific feedback on your clinic, please email me and we can organise a call.

    The support work I do means I am in a very privileged position, to be told peoples deepest fears and emotions, their anxieties and worries around treatment and their future life, and I also get to celebrate in their amazing highs of positive results and the birth of their children. I take that responsibility very seriously and want to make sure I am acting as their voice in fertility clinics, helping them get the support they desperately want and need.

    I also know from all the Fertility clinics I have had the pleasure of working with and speaking to, that staff are hugely committed to making sure the experience their patients have with them is a positive one, whatever the outcome, and I want to help you deliver that for your patients.

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