A week in the life of a Donation Specialist Nursing Coordinator
Clare is a Donation Specialist Nursing Coordinator (DSNC) at The Alfred. She works to support families considering organ and tissue donation when they have to say goodbye to their loved ones in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU). This week, Donate Life week, Clare has shared a snippet of "the most rewarding and satisfying job that I have ever had”.
I start the week feeling refreshed after a weekend spent with family. I head to the ICU to touch base with the team and check whether we have any current donation cases or families that need extra support and information. Back in the office I audit every death in the ICU and emergency department over the past few days and ensure each family has been given the opportunity to consider organ donation as part of their end of life care.
The family of a man in the ICU have chosen to honour his wishes and allow his organs to save the lives of complete strangers. He was registered on the Australian Organ Donor Register, but we also need to seek permission from families. The ICU team and I spend time with the family, ensuring that they understand what will happen, have time to say goodbye, and are able to create one last memento to remember him by. The family tells me that being able to save other people’s lives gives them some sense of comfort amid the tragedy.
I check the urgent listings for Australia and New Zealand. There is no one urgently in need of an organ so I follow usual process and contact the local transplant unit. We cross match the donor blood with a very sick recipient – it’s a perfect match. I contact the operating theatre and request a time for the donation to take place. The recipient is contacted and starts to prepare for their surgery. For organ transplants to be successful, the coordination process needs to happen quickly.
The organ donation surgery is complete when I arrive at work and I contact the donor’s family to let them know it was successful. I talk with the Donor Family Support Coordinator to pass along the contact information for the donor’s family. She will contact them regularly and is able to provide ongoing support for these families following the donation.
I have the day off so I take my dog for a long walk and prepare meals for the rest of the week.
I spend time calling transplant units to get updates on recipients from last week. I need this information to send in the donation outcome letter along with the donor’s handprint, a final memento to remember their loved ones gracious gift.
This is a small snippet of my job which represents a tiny part of the organ donation and transplantation sector. The most satisfying part of my job is watching families decide they are brave enough to say yes when we must ask for their help. Make your choice known by joining the Australian Organ Donor Register and discuss your wishes with your family.