The Heart of the IVF Clinic: The Embryologist

Embryologist roleAt the heart of IVF clinics at home and abroad is the IVF laboratory. And at the heart of the lab are the embryologists. These skilled personnel are sometimes invisible behind the closed door of the laboratory. Many medical directors of IVF clinics will admit that the IVF laboratory is where all the critical work of the clinic is undertaken. IVF embryologists have to be extremely skilled, patient and knowledgeable to perform their role well. It takes many months of training to be able to perform all the tasks which are required to be undertaken in an IVF laboratory.

The European Society of Human Reproduction and Embryology (ESHRE) implemented an accreditation scheme a few years ago in order to standardise the training undertaken by embryologists in IVF clinics in Europe. They recognised that embryologists may have come from different scientific backgrounds and that usually an “apprenticeship” or “training-on-the-job” was the training available to new recruits. They therefore implemented certification to demonstrate an individual’s level of expertise and knowledge in the field of embryology.

With the explosion of new technologies, and greater demand for embryologists, the ESHRE accreditation scheme now rightly recognises Embryology for the profession it is. The accreditation scheme is based on a submitted and verified logbook of procedures undertaken by the embryologist followed by a written exam. There are different requirements for the senior embryologist. A senior embryologist must hold specific postgraduate academic qualifications and have had at least 6 years hands-on lab experience.

Since the laboratory is so important to the success of the IVF clinic, it is right that there are measures in place to ensure that quality of procedures are maintained. In the UK and Ireland, the Association of Clinical Embryologists also has a defined training scheme in place. The ACE Certificate in Clinical Embryology ensures that entrants to the field of embryology are properly trained and qualified to perform their scientific duties.

There are many countries in Europe now with embryologists who are ESHRE accredited. For those IVF clinics which enable their embryologists to participate in the ESHRE accreditation, it can be another indication of the quality control procedures which are present within.

Read some interviews by staff at top IVF clinics in Europe in our blog.