In conversation with our Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation

6 Oct 2022, 3:12 p.m.

Specialist Nurses for Organ Donation, Robyn and Kim, at the Organ Donation Week stand

7,000 people in the UK are on the waiting list for an organ transplant, including 200 children and young people.

We spoke with Robyn Prescott, Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation (SNOD) at Great Ormond Street Hospital and North Middlesex Hospital, to learn about her role, and why it’s important to talk about organ donation. 

What is a Specialist Nurse for Organ Donation?

We support families whose loved ones are at the end of their life, and inform people about the option of organ donation and support people through this choice. If people are in support of organ donation, then we co-ordinate this process and liaise with transplant centres to ensure safe and successful transplants take place.

We ensure that everybody’s end of life journey is personalised to them and their families, and stay with people right until they are transferred to the chapel of rest, so that they are never alone.

What does your average day look like?

No two days are the same, but on a ‘normal day’ we are based in our embedded hospitals – for me this is Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) and North Middlesex Hospital. We take referrals from the clinical teams, do teaching with nurses and medics and complete audits to ensure we are offering organ donation to all families.

We also work together with the local team on projects to honour the memory of our previous donors.

How long have you been a Specialist Nurse in Organ Donation?

I have been a SNOD for a year, my to SNODiversary was last week, so it’s quite special that it coincided with Organ Donation Week.

I was first inspired to be a nurse when I was younger and on holiday in Tanzania. Whilst helping on a local farm one day I met a beautiful little boy who was HIV positive and didn’t have the money or access to medication for his condition and I knew then that I wanted to do a job that helps other people.

Photo of Robyn

Robyn

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I really think being able to do my job is a privilege.

The best part of my job is working with the families. I meet families when they have been delivered the worst news of their lives, but I am able to offer them something positive that can come from such a tragic situation, the chance to save the lives of other people.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

The most challenging part is working through assumptions of others. We are sometimes referred patients who the clinical team believe will not be interested in donating their loved one’s organs. But it is important that everybody is given the option to consider organ donation. It is a normal part of end-of-life care, and you can never assume what somebody will say, people always surprise you.

Why is Organ Donation so important?

Organ donation is a life transforming gift for those on the transplant waiting list. At GOSH, it allows children and young people the chance to live a normal life.

However, sadly every day in the UK someone loses their life waiting for an organ transplant because a suitable organ donor match isn’t found in time. By signing up to be an organ donor, you increase the chances of someone finding that life changing gift.

What would you say to individuals and families thinking about organ donation?

There are lots of myths about organ donation, and it is important that people make a fully informed decision. I would say to make sure that it is the right decision for you and your family but also not to make a decision without having all the information. We only have one chance to ensure that we get this right for you and your family.

Have the conversation with your families, loved ones, work colleagues. It is important we encourage the conversation regarding organ donation, so that your decision is known.

Why is it important to sign up to the Organ Donation register?

It is important to sign up to the organ donor register because then it means that your family will know what your known decision is, should they be having that conversation with a Specialist Nurse. It is important to discuss your decision with your family as they will be the people who support your decision.

To families who choose to donate ...

I would just like to say thank you. Thank you for supporting what your loved one would have wanted to do, but also thank you on behalf of all the lives of the recipients that you have helped to save.

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