Tell us about your career
I knew I wanted to be a nurse when I was in sixth form, so I went ahead and pursued nursing at university. I undertook a placement within neurotrauma intensive care (a part of critical care that cares for patients with injuries involving the nerves, brain or spine), where I received great support and enhanced my nursing skills and knowledge.
After receiving my nursing qualification, I became a staff nurse at the same hospital and built up some experience before eventually moving to London to work in a trauma unit at another hospital. It was in that role that I got to know and understand the role of a specialist nurse for organ donation (SNOD) in end-of-life care. I was given the chance to develop in this area and when an opportunity to become a SNOD came along, I applied. Seven years later, I’m still in the role and loving what I do.
What advice would you give to someone considering a career in the NHS?
I love the NHS because it has helped me both personally and professionally. Nursing as a career has developed over the years – we have more autonomy now which means we can continually build on our skills and further our career. I am a big believer of career development and education as it helps to guide you and realise your full potential in your career. I would encourage colleagues in the NHS to pursue as many of these opportunities as possible.
My next advice would be to build relationships with everyone around you. In the NHS, it’s very likely that you’ll be working within a multidisciplinary team. The NHS has great teamwork and without teamwork, you won’t get anywhere. Remember that your team will always be there to help you.
What does a specialist nurse for organ donation do?
Specialist nurses for organ donation (SNODs) support potential donor families, help facilitate the organ donation process and act as advocates for organ donation.
SNODs are employed by NHS Blood and Transplant. We have regional teams that cover different parts of the UK, with each nurse assigned different hospitals to look after within their region. I sit in the London Team and I look after Royal Brompton and Harefield, Chelsea and Westminster and West Middlesex hospitals.
What is your day-to-day like?
I have two different types of days. I have an ‘admin day’, which I suppose is what you would consider a ‘9 to 5’. On this type of day, I come to the hospitals to carry out necessary admin work and develop relationships with the clinical leads for organ donation and the wider intensive care team. I attend various hospital meetings and we are also given the opportunity to go out into the community to help broaden the knowledge and awareness about organ donation.
The other type of day I have is more of a clinical role where I do my on-calls and speak to potential donor families. As a specialist nurse, I’m involved in end-of-life conversations with families and I discuss the prospect of organ donation. If families agree to donation, we complete a consent form with them and ensure they are fully informed of the process to be able to make that informed decision that is best for them and their loved one. Making sure that families are involved throughout is so important as this also allows me to support them appropriately every step of the way.
Facilitating the organ donation process involves gathering all the relevant information about the patient, carrying out assessments and tests to match them with a potential recipient. As a team we carry out a ‘moment of honour’ for our patients as a sign of gratitude and respect for their generosity in donating. It is always appreciated by our donors’ families and it is always a very poignant moment. Moments like these never leave me.
What is the best thing about your job?
I enjoy talking to people and I think this job really enables me to do this – I love having the opportunity to develop relationships with families and my fellow clinical colleagues.
The other thing I love about my job is my support network of fantastic colleagues. Working as a SNOD and being a nurse in general can get quite emotional at times. So as a team, we always make sure to talk and check in on each other regularly.
Ultimately, I think organ donation is an amazing thing to do and it’s an honour to be able to support and advocate for the donors and families whose generosity continues to save lives.
What is the best thing that a patient’s family has ever said to you?
Part of my job involves telling the family of an organ donor what the outcome of the donation was and how their organs have gone on to help someone who needed a transplant. More often than not, they thank me for my help.
It feels strange to me that they’re thanking me when they are the ones who deserve the thanks for being so generous while at the same time grieving the loss of a loved one. I find the families I work with truly incredible and inspiring.
Why is organ donation important?
Organ donation saves lives. For the patients I encounter, very sadly there is nothing else that can save them at that time, but they can go on to save other people’s lives through the gift of organ donation. I have seen first-hand how donor families tend to find a lot of comfort in their time of grief in knowing that their loved one has been able to donate and help other people.
I think talking about organ donation within communities is really key. A big part of my role is to speak to people and help them understand what organ donation is and why it is important. SNODs are here to help save lives and facilitate the process of organ donation. But we can only do this through the generosity and selfless acts of individuals who go on to donate. The real amazing people are the organ donors at the end of the day.
To find out more about becoming an organ donor, visit https://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/.