Careers in Healthcare S1 E1 Healthcare science: Embryology practitioner

Content warning: This episode contains detailed information about fertility treatments.

Clare’s an embryologist. In this episode, she talks about her incredible work helping patients to have children. Listen to her explain the various routes into becoming an embryology practitioner, what her typical day looks like and how you can work in this role too!

While you might not have heard of an embryologist, Clare says that it’s likely you’ll have heard about her area of work. She helps people achieve families through in vitro fertilisation, more commonly known as IVF. That’s when an egg is removed from the ovaries and mixed with sperm in a laboratory. Clare also conducts a similar treatment called intracytoplasmic sperm injection, where sperm is directly injected into the egg. In addition to these procedures, Clare and her team offer fertility preservation to their transgender patients or patients having chemotherapy.

Clare's motivation

Clare became interested in embryology when she started a course in reproductive science during her Biology degree. She was fascinated by infertility and how it could be treated, so she wanted to learn more. She decided to do an MSc in Assistive Reproductive Technology before beginning to work in a laboratory. She’s now working on her equivalence assessment, where those who haven’t completed the Scientist Training Programme work towards the same qualification by showing they have the same skills and knowledge.

The highs and lows of being an embryologist

The best part of the job is using the latest technology to help with patient care. Clare describes using an embryoscope so that she can watch as an egg develops into an embryo. She believes that watching life develop in front of your eyes is as exciting as a job gets! This kind of technology also helps embryologists collect lots of data so that they can learn and improve their service.

Clare explains that there are challenging aspects of her work, like giving patients bad news, which she described as her ‘least favourite part of the job’. That’s why there are lots of important skills for her role to make sure you’re doing your absolute best for the patient. Clare says you need great attention to detail, teamworking skills, and a passion and willingness to learn. Being an excellent communicator is also important because you work in an interdisciplinary team, which means you have to be able to work with doctors, nurses and lots of other healthcare professionals to provide a quality service.

Clare's advice for you

If you’re interested in becoming an embryologist, Clare suggests you try to volunteer at clinics while doing your undergraduate degree or ask to take a tour of a department. Start by looking at our information on clinical scientists working in life sciences. Anything you can do to learn about the role before you start will be beneficial!

We hope you enjoyed listening to Clare discuss her rewarding role as an embryologist. Make sure to tune in to our other episodes to find out more about different healthcare science roles in NHSScotland. If you’d like to read about NHSScotland careers, including those in healthcare science, explore our careers.