Hilary Sharpe, Senior Sister, Transplant Outpatients

How long have you worked at Royal Brompton and Harefield hospitals?

I began my career at Harefield in 2001. It was somewhat of a happy accident. I accompanied a close friend, who was newly employed to the transplant unit, to request her uniforms. I was introduced to the sister of the ward at the time and I got to know more about the work they do. When an opening in the team eventually came up, I interviewed for the role and became a new nurse in the unit shortly after.

Hilary Sharpe

Can you describe what you do day-to-day?

My day-to-day role involves managing the busy Harefield transplant outpatients department.

I work alongside a dedicated team of nursing and allied health staff, some of whom have been at Harefield for over 15 years.

It is a very dynamic department and every day provides its own challenges. Our team facilitates the long-term follow-up of patients who have had a heart or lung transplant. Having an organ transplant is a major procedure, and while many transplant recipients will go on to lead normal lifestyles, it is important we give patientsinformation to make informed choices, and to empower them to lead a healthy lifestyle. We also provide outpatient services to pre-transplant, heart failure and ventricular assist device patients (patients who use a mechanical device to help pump blood from the heart to the rest of their body).

Patients should have a voice and feel just as supported within their community as when they visit the clinic, so we are also on hand to offer support over email and telephone, if they need it.

We also liaise with ward managers regularly to organise admissions and continuing patient care.

What I am most proud of is the service we offer to teenagers transitioning from children’s to adult services, and the work we have done around skin care for transplant patients. The work on skin care involved raising awareness and prevention of skin cancer, as transplant patients have a much higher risk of developing it due to the medications used to prevent donor organ rejection (immunosuppressants).

Which part of your job is most challenging?

COVID-19 was a significant challenge for the team. Besides managing the expectations of vulnerable patients during a difficult time, we had to mobilise our efforts  to ensure patient care wasn’t compromised – for example, we set up virtual clinics to maintain adequate follow-up, maintained  essential in-person appointments in a safe way, implemented the use of remote capillary blood testing, and hosted webinars to keep patients informed about developments and vaccinations.

What is the best/funniest thing a patient has ever said to you?

Since my name is Hilary, some patients would call me Hillary Clinton to be reminded of my name!

Why did you decide to work in healthcare?

I first became interested in nursing due to a family friend who was a community nurse. I always admired her poise; she wore white, was always immaculate and was passionate about her work. When I couldn’t pursue my desired course, she pointed me towards nursing.

What did you want to be when you were younger?

I wanted to be a Sports Broadcaster.