A day in the life of a Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation
A day in the life of a Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation (SNOD) is never the same. It’s a uniquely varied job that requires us to be skilled educators, diligent auditors, and passionate promoters. However, the fundamental part of our role (our primary motivation when we’ve already worked 40 hours of overtime in a month, and have another on-call shift to do) is to support and care for bereaved families in their time of need, and to help save the lives of others by facilitating the organ donation process.
We meet families on what is likely to be the worst day of their lives. They’ve just been told that their loved one – parent, child, sibling, partner – is going to die. We never forget that it’s a privilege to share this very personal and very private time with families. For this, we afford them a luxury that they so desperately deserve; time. We take the time to sit with them and answer their questions about death and dying and what happens next. We take the time to hold their hand and smile as they recount stories and memories of their loved one. We take the time to be the shoulder to cry on. Most importantly, we take the time to offer them a choice, and provide the information they need to make that choice.
No one disputes that organ donation saves and transforms lives, but it doesn’t make the decision to say yesany easier. SNODs inform and support bereaved families, ensuring they’re empowered to make the right decision for them. However, if a family doesn’t know what their relative would want, the decision will be more difficult and distressing, so they’re more likely to say no. People who share their wishes with a loved one, who share their desire to save lives through the beautiful gift of organ donation, will spare their families the anguish of not knowing what they would want. It will make their decision to say yes easier, and free them of the anguish of not knowing.
Organ donors are heroes, but so are their families. Those left behind – the suffering parent, the distraught child, the grief-stricken sibling, the heart broken partner – who are able to look beyond their own anguish and suffering to consider another family in their time of need are also heroes. Upholding their loved one’s final wish and saying yes to the gift of life is nothing short of courageous. So we salute not only the amazing donors, but also the remarkable loved ones they leave behind.
Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation
Guy’s and St. Thomas’ NHS Foundation Trust
London Organ Donation Services Team