My job

60 seconds with lead fertility nurse Laura Carter-Penman

The joys of balancing a leadership role with hands-on care

The joys of balancing a leadership role with hands-on care and patient advocacy

'The variety of the work keeps me on my toes,' says fertility nurse Laura Carter-Penman

Laura Carter-Penman qualified as a nurse from the University of East Anglia in 1996. After working as a staff nurse in elective surgery and urology at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King’s Lynn, Norfolk, she spent two years in the private sector. She was deputy ward manager on a medical ward at The Sandringham Hospital, also in King's Lynn.

She returned to the NHS in 2003 as a senior staff nurse at Hinchingbrooke NHS Trust in Cambridgeshire, rising to ward manager. In 2011 she took up her first post as a fertility nurse, at Bourn Hall Clinic in Cambridge, the world’s first IVF clinic.

After four years as lead nurse at the clinic, she took up her current post as regional lead nurse in August 2017. In April, she was appointed executive secretary of national nursing organisation the Senior Infertility Nurse Group (SING).

What are your main work responsibilities? 

I oversee a team of 30 nurses and healthcare assistants across Bourn Hall’s Cambridge and Norwich clinics. This involves implementing a career structure for the nursing team and supporting staff in their extended roles. As SING secretary, I help organise training events, offer peer support and guidance to fertility nurses across the UK and Ireland.

How did you get your job?  

I wanted a change from a busy NHS colorectal and general surgical ward, so I applied to work at Bourn Hall Clinic. After two years I was ready to step back into a management role, and after four years as lead nurse I was lucky enough to be appointed regional lead nurse in August last year.

Who are your clients/patients?

We treat a wide range of patients, from those seeking advice on their fertility – before cancer treatment or gender reassignment for example – to couples who have been referred after a diagnosis of infertility.

What do you love about your job?

The variety of the role, which really keeps me on my toes. My role is very hands-on – I interact with patients throughout their journey. I have recently undertaken the British Fertility Society’s pelvic ultrasound course, and scanning gives me a huge amount of patient contact. I also enjoy leading a team and being able to influence the way the business works while still working in a supportive team.

What do you find most difficult?

When treatment doesn’t work. We get to know our patients well, and having my own teenage son, Theo, I know the joy children can bring to a family.

What is your top priority at work?

Acting as an advocate for my patients.

How have you developed your skills in this role?

Before working at Bourn Hall, I had no fertility experience so it has been a huge learning curve but I have an incredibly supportive team around me and the in-house training is excellent. SING also has an excellent website with informative training modules.

What has been your most formative career experience?

The chance to have a leadership role. This helps me influence best practice, support and train the team, and ensure we are delivering the best care to patients.

If you hadn’t become a nurse, what would you have done instead?

I would probably have become a teacher.

What will be your next career move?

I am keen to stay at Bourn Hall as I have a nice balance between leadership and hands-on care, but who knows what the future holds.

What is the best lesson nursing has taught you?

Be kind, treat others how you would like to be treated, and make the most of what you have.

What career advice would you give your younger self?

It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you are happy.

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