Fertility nurse Carol Steel finds her job so rewarding she finds it hard to believe her ambition was once to be a fashion designer! Here she describes how she came to be an invaluable member of our senior nursing team and about her work in the King's Lynn clinic.
“I didn’t intend going in to nursing when I was younger; I thought that I would end up doing something ‘arty’,” Carol reveals. “I went to college and studied fashion design but after some serious soul-searching decided I wanted to work in a profession with a more caring aspect to it.”
Carol is a Lead Specialist Fertility Nurse at Bourn Hall’s King’s Lynn clinic, which she helped to set up five years ago. The clinic provides fertility advice, testing and diagnosis and also supports patients going through treatment, which includes IVF.
Carol qualified as a nurse in Leicester in 1985, working on the wards as well as in the community. Following a brief spell in the US on a renal and respiratory ward she came back to the UK and settled in Norfolk. It was at this point that Carol started to specialise in fertility nursing, initially at a private hospital and then at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, before joining Bourn Hall.
“When I first went in to fertility nursing it was a fairly new speciality and it was a really exciting time,” she remembers. However, she soon realised that it could be tough for patients with infertility to be treated within a busy general hospital.
“As a patient in a hospital environment you could potentially be sitting in the same waiting room as a pregnant woman waiting to go in for an antenatal scan and that can be really difficult,” she says. “What I like about our King’s Lynn clinic is that it’s small and patients feel really comfortable when they come here because they are not seeing lots of other people.
“I feel that when people come to an appointment at our clinic they leave feeling fully informed about their own individual situation and what options there are for them moving forward.”
Fertility in Norfolk
Norfolk was one of the first counties to offer an integrated fertility service, with GPs being able to refer patients directly to Bourn Hall for fertility testing, diagnosis and, where appropriate, OI, a treatment to help women conceive naturally when they aren’t releasing eggs regularly.
“I think that in Norfolk we are fortunate to have some of the best fertility provision there is,” says Carol, who has a lot of contact with patients from the moment they walk through the door of the clinic, something she really enjoys.
“When patients are referred to us by their GP and they come into the clinic for the first time I take a general history and arrange any additional tests for both partners – such as sperm analysis, checking hormone levels and ovulation,” she says.
“Once all the tests are done I will book the patients in to see the consultant. If they have a high body mass index (BMI) we encourage and support them to take steps to lose weight and reduce their BMI before starting treatment. I can advise them on changing their diet and taking up exercise. We have had some patients conceive naturally with this help.”
Ovulation induction can be of benefit to women with no or infrequent ovulation and fertility drugs such as Clomid can increase egg production. At Bourn Hall OI is carefully monitored with ultrasound scanning and blood tests and Carol is closely involved in all aspects of this service provided to patients.
Support for the journey
As well as seeing patients face-to-face Carol spends a lot of time on the telephone, supporting people, giving results and information.
“I have really close contact with patients and follow their journey through right from initial investigation to outcome and I find that really rewarding,” says Carol. “I want to ensure that whether someone’s treatment is successful or not they come out the other side a complete human being and feel that they had been supported throughout.”
Being based in King’s Lynn, with a career in fertility nursing spanning nearly 30 years, it is not unusual for Carol to bump in to couples she has treated – and she loves it.
“I will often be out and about in town and people will come up to me with their babies or older children and have a chat,” she says. “One lady stopped me in Tesco recently with an ‘oh look, it’s Carol!’ I recognised her as a patient from a few years ago and asked how her little one was doing and she said ‘he’s just gone to university!’”
To ensure she keeps up-to-date with all the latest developments in fertility treatment and care, Carol is a member of the British Fertility Society and the RCN Fertility Nurse Forum.
Looking back, she has no regrets whatsoever about her decision to switch fashion for fertility.
“I feel privileged to have had the opportunity to live in Norfolk and to have such a rewarding job. I really couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”