Angie Scales is Lead Nurse for Paediatric and Neonatal Donation and Transplantation and, for Organ Donation Week, tells us about her fascinating and challenging role.
Very early in my nurse training, I knew that the area I wanted to specialise in was paediatrics. I was encouraged to pursue that goal and I was delighted when my first job was on a children’s ward. Where else do you get to ride a scooter through the corridor with the aim of delivering a syringe full of medicine to an unconvinced three-year-old?
Most of my career after this first job was based in Paediatric Intensive Care at Great Ormond Street Hospital: less scooter riding but none the less rewarding. I initially went for six months experience as an enthusiastic post-registration children’s nurse and stayed 20 years, leaving content but knowing that I needed a new challenge.
My final role at Great Ormond Street prior to joining NHS Blood and Transplant was as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in family support and bereavement. This gave me the experience and skills needed in the Organ Donation Specialist Nurse role which, in 2010, was that new challenge. I can honestly say that my roles in organ donation have been the most challenging yet most rewarding I have experienced in the whole of my career to date.
Now, as the Lead Nurse for Paediatric and Neonatal Donation and Transplantation in NHS Blood and Transplant I am exploring how we can ensure our processes work in the delicate and challenging area of paediatric and infant death. Children can save lives through organ and tissue donation too and one of our aims is to ensure that all families facing the death of a child are offered the opportunity to consider organ and tissue donation, but also understand when it may not be possible. Families can be comforted by the thought that their child’s short life had meaning, a positive outcome, saving another life that may so easily otherwise also be lost.
Parents and loved ones find it difficult to talk of death to children, it raises the prospect of an indescribable pain that losing a child would bring. I have been there too and uncomfortably dismissed conversations when my 15-year-old came bounding in excited to have received his new donor card. How much more difficult could it then be for others?
Children young and old are much more open to discussions about death and their wishes than maybe adults are. Be willing to have the conversation with them and should the indescribable happen your decision will be guided by that conversation and in the loss of a life, possibly other lives can be transformed.
As a nurse I asked for a challenge – I got that, but it came with the greatest of rewards too. Ask what is your challenge and your reward?
To find out more about organ donation, please visit www.organdonation.nhs.uk.