Center for Reproductive Health , Crest Hill, IL, February 2012
FertilityAuthority is pleased to honor Chicago-area fertility nurse Connie Stark, RNC, BS, PCE, as Fertility Nurse of the Month . For more than 15 of the 26 years she has been a fertility nurse, Connie has been an IVF coordinator.
“I love, love, love what I do,” Stark says. And that's despite the fact that infertility nursing “fell in my lap.”
Prior to becoming a fertility nurse, Stark worked as an operating room (OR) nurse. Following an accident that resulted in nerve damage in her leg, she could no longer perform in the OR. She learned a lot about loss and grieving from this experience, and, ironically, she says the process is the same for her fertility patients.“I let them know they're validated; it's real," Stark says. "Once we identify it, we can move forward.”
Stark explains how patients come into the fertility clinic with a fertility plan — and it doesn't turn out to be what they thought it would be.“The problem for patients is, infertility wasn't a choice,” she says. “No one taught us how to do this,” she adds.
Stark says her role as IVF coordinator includes helping patients navigate fertility treatment from beginning to end from a clinical perspective, as well as acting as a support system. She works to integrate services and support that patients might not get otherwise, and she's a true believer in mind/body health and that the head, the heart — and even the uterus — are all connected. As such, she advocates education programs, support groups, yoga retreats and counseling services. She's also a big proponent of Chinese medicine and works with an acupuncturist certified in reproductive endocrinology.
All of these complementary therapies help resolve decision making and wellness, according to Stark.. “I can't tell a patient to decrease stress," she says. "What I can do is help them maintain a better lifestyle.”
Stark learned about mind/body techniques through her own personal experience. “I made a decision to be well, move forward and make changes,” she says. “The body can live what the mind tells you to do. Don't be afraid to say: I want to be pregnant.”
By Connie Stark, RNC, BS
Center for Reproductive Health
Crest Hill Illinois
Reflecting back on my last 25 years of RE nursing, I realize how I have remained committed and respectful to this remarkable ever-changing field of nursing. I love this crazy world of reproductive medicine! The opportunity to become a reproductive nurse was not a job I ever knew existed until I suffered my own loss of body through an accident. It was presented as just an office job that needed a nurse. I was able to do office nursing with a disability walking with crutches since I was unable to continue my OR / trauma nurse profession. This was not just an office nurse job -- what a misconception -- this became my career and passion!
Throughout my own journey of dealing with so many different specialties of medicine, I realized the biggest aspect of my care was that I always felt that no one cared or understood what this type of crisis was like. When I walked into that reproductive office as the nurse on day one, I vowed that I would never leave a patient in a room crying, upset, or uneducated about their diagnosis or treatment.
Although my role as an IVF coordinator / infertility nurse includes performing ultrasounds, triaging calls, drawing blood, etc., I have evolved into an exciting area in my current practice to provide a “Holistic Approach of Wellness” throughout the fertility journey.
Integrating wellness education focusing on proper nutrition, options of exercise, stress relieving techniques, as well as offering Eastern medicine modalities compliments any prescribed therapies. By enhancing body and mind wellness in anticipation of a pregnancy, holistic wellness education is a key component to empower our patients with choices they can control throughout this difficult time of their lives. Leading support groups, planning couple retreats, education seminars, and coordinating acupuncture treatments and yoga classes has allowed me to have a bigger impact in our patients' lives, not just throughout their fertility crisis.
Defining success at the end of the day, of course, is the positive pregnancy test results. However, I defined my own lifetime successes when patients hang up the phone or leave the office with tears of “thanks” for the support, guidance, and advice they received throughout their own journey. It's important to know that they reach a place of resolution and peace. I am so thankful for the hundreds of patients who I have had the privilege to know and care for who continue to “WOW” my spirit to stay committed and loyal to my starting vow. Thank you for making it known that the pathway to fertility wellness really does matter!