31 August 2018

The Gift of Life: Transplant Nursing

The act of organ donation is one of humanity’s most wonderful gifts. In 2016, 50,000 lives were saved due to organ transplantation in the UK. NHS Blood and Transplant report that this figure was made up of 36,300 kidney patients, 9,800 livers, 1,900 pancreases, and 1,000 who were given an intestine transplant.

Charlotte Baranowski, who previously worked in Bristol’s Southmead Hospital as a renal transplant co-ordinator, was able to offer an insight into transplant care...

 “It was my job to support patients through the renal transplant process and communicate with the patient, doctors and hospital. I also arranged and scheduled patients for pre-transplant testing.

I would search to locate donors and would then test any donors for compatibility. Once a donor was found, I would schedule the patient for the surgery, and then arrange follow-up care needed after the procedure.

It was a very challenging role - but thrilling to see the difference that you can make to people’s lives.”

Today, Charlotte works as a Clinical Governance Advisor in the Newcross Bristol branch. Having also worked as an RN for Newcross, she now extends her prowess to other nurses and healthcare staff. She loves her job, telling us,

Being a Clinical Advisor is a great opportunity to listen to fellow healthcare professionals and understand the challenges they’re facing. Although I’m not in uniform, my job is still very much nursing, only now I’m providing care and expertise to support other nurses who are in turn looking after service users.

"There’s never a dull moment!”

The care given by transplant nurses after a procedure is varied. Common tasks can include taking care of the patient’s daily needs, changing wound dressings, treating infections, and administering medications.

Transplant nursing is a specialised field, all nurses needing to be proficient in not only basic nursing duties, but also comfortable with assisting surgeons in the operating theatre. Assembling tools and handing them to the surgeon, while monitoring the vital signs and stability of the patient, are examples of duties undertaken by a transplant nurse.  

Educating patients and their loved ones about the aftercare of transplants also comes under the umbrella of the role of transplant nursing. Nurses educate patients and their families on how to care for themselves whilst on the organ donor waiting list. They also thoroughly explain how the transplant waiting list works, and what will follow once a matching organ is found. 

Professor of Transplantation Biology and Honorary Consultant Transplant Surgeon, Rutger Ploeg, told us, “Successful transplantation starts with a donor.” However, improper care in the recovery stages could lead to complications. It is the high standard of care that follows transplant surgery, that absolutely ensures the patient will go on to live a full and healthy life.

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