Published online by Cambridge University Press: 22 October 2009
The specialist nurse in assisted conception
Because of the rapidly developing and expanding nature of reproductive medicine and assisted reproductive technology (ART), the role of the nurse working in this area initially developed and expanded in parallel without any real plan or guidance, dependent primarily on the needs of individual centres. In 1987, The Royal College of Nursing, Fertility Nurses Group (RCN/FNG) was established after a small group of nurses working in assisted conception expressed concern about the lack of specific training and professional guidance. In 1990, the RCN/FNG circulated a questionnaire to 100 assisted conception centres and the results were indicative of the great diversity in the role of the nurse in these centres and in training and experience. For example, it was apparent that in the absence of formal training or previous experience, doctors were largely providing ad hoc hands-on training, and the urgent need for professionally recognized training, practical guidelines and support was highlighted (Royal College of Nursing, Fertility Nurses Group, 1990).
In 1993, the RCN/FNG published Standards of Care for Fertility Nurses and in 1994 ran its first course: RCN Institute of Advanced Nursing Education Assisted Conception Nursing Care. This course covered reproductive physiology, ethics, research and issues in nursing practice, sociology, political and legal perspectives, psychology and issues relating to counselling. Subsequently other courses have been developed with the aim that nurses will meet the equirements for qualification as specialist infertility nurse practitioners.
In 1996, Castledine et al. undertook a survey for the provision of guidelines for nurses practising as either specialists or advanced practitioners, and the attributes required by the nurse working in assisted conception can be identified within this framework.