The national consent rate for organ donation from the relatives of the terminally ill is around 60% and with three people in the United Kingdom dying every day because of lack of tissue and organs, it's up to specialist organ donation nurses to try and increase the numbers.
The role of an organ donation nurse is complex. From assessment, through end-of-life care and beyond, these highly skilled and diverse NHS nurses have a lot to contend with and are, among other things, often one of the most important people in the final stages of a patient's life.
I recently interviewed one of these nurses to find out what exactly it meant to be a specialist nurse for organ donation.
Tell me about your role...
"Our job is to provide the best quality end-of-life care possible to patients and their families. Our work starts when staff call us to assess a patient - which, sadly, doesn't always happen because judgments are sometimes made on our behalf about suitability. When this happens, potential donors can be missed.
The role then becomes a support one. We stay with the families of the patients and give them the support and advice they need in order to make the right, well-informed decisions for them".
What would make your job easier?
"So much of what we do involves working with the families of the terminally ill, at the most difficult time of their lives. So, for patients to make their wishes clear while they still can is extremely important.
Not everyone can or will consent, but for a lot of families, organ donation is often the only positive left in an otherwise hopeless situation."
Demand for tissue and organs is high, and while ultimately, the preferred outcome for these unique nurses is consent for donation, they have a duty of care to families to empower, inform and support.
To find out more about NHS Blood and Transplant, visit http://www.nhsbt.nhs.uk/index.asp
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