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The specialist nurse in organ donation, helping families through the most difficult times

Exterior of Sheffield Childrens Hospital
26 September 2022

Meet Louise, she’s a Specialist Nurse in Organ Donation in Yorkshire. She is part of the team that can help save and improve the lives of people whilst supporting donor families. To help raise awareness about how organ donation works, Louise talks about her role and working across Yorkshire supporting families.

What is a Specialist Nurse Organ Donation?nurse louise higgs in blue uniform and white piping on the blue uniform, blonde/brown hair to collarbones and smiling

My Role is a Specialist Nurse Organ Donation (SN-OD).  I work for the Yorkshire Organ Donation Services Team, which is one of 12 teams covering the whole of the UK and Northern Ireland.  The Yorkshire team is made up of 20 SN-ODs and between us we cover all the Intensive Care Units within the Yorkshire, Humber, North Derbyshire, and North Lincolnshire areas.  We often support neighbouring colleagues too if they need extra support.

There are two main aspects to my role and no two days are ever the same, I have on-call responsibilities and embedded responsibilities.

On call

When on call, my role is to facilitate the organ donation process.  This means taking referrals through to when someone donates organs and supporting the family following this. At every step, I ensure that the patient is treated with the upmost respect and dignity, and that we continue to support families.  We support staff throughout this process too assisting with difficult family conversations and advising on how best to continue care for their patients


Being embedded means working in hospital Trusts to carry out audits and support further education around organ donation.

I cover Sheffield Children’s NHS Foundation Trust and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.

I am responsible for carrying out an audit of all the deaths which occur on Intensive Care and Accident & Emergency.  This is to ensure that we are not missing any potential organ donors, and are continuing to allow families to make informed decisions when faced with end of life situations.  This audit allows us to see if any areas need further education or information to ensure all options are provided to families. This information then has to be presented to the Trust Board, and colleagues by the way of the Organ Donation Committee at each Trust, which is held every 3 months.

At Sheffield Children’s I work closely with the Clinical Lead Organ Donation (Lara Jackman) we are responsible for ensuring any educational needs are addressed and work with all staff on the intensive care unit and emergency department to do all we can to ensure best practice is followed.  We also offer de-briefs to staff following organ donation of a patient, as we know this can often be an emotional and impactful time.

What is Sheffield Children’s role in regards to organ donation?

Sheffield Children’s colleagues are responsible for highlighting and referring any patients who would be able to donate their organs to the Yorkshire Organ Donation Services Team.

Once a patient is referred, the specialist organ donation team will assess the patient to understand if they are able to donate. If they can donate, the specialist donation team made up of nurses and transplant specialists will attend the hospital.

Louise, and colleagues in similar roles, will work collaboratively with the hospital team and make sure the families have all the correct information needed to make the right decision for them. They are looked after ever step of the way before, during and after donation.

Advice for anyone:

For more information on organ donation, please visit

The donor family network are a donor family charity.  All members have been personally affected by organ donation, and offer support to families who have lost loved ones who have donated organs and tissues.

It is important that everyone understands the law around organ donation, the choices available to them, and how important it is to register and share their organ donation decision.  This is so families can be certain they know what their loved ones wanted.  Please have the conversation and join the NHS Organ Donor Register at

Debbie, the mum of Sheffield Children’s patient Dan, an organ donor, had the conversation with her son Dan, which helped her when faced with the decision around donation. You can read their story their story on the Sheffield Children’s website.

How did you become a specialist organ donation nurse?

Like most Specialist Nurses Organ Donation, my background is in Intensive Care. I was regularly exposed to the world of organ donation in my role there, and realised that this was a career that I wished to pursue. The specialist nurse for organ donation role is very unique and training is an intense 6 month programme, working long hours! I was extremely well supported through this initial training period and still am, as I constantly strive to improve through professional and personal development.

What inspires you in your role?

The short answer to this is our amazing donor families!  The fact that they have the strength and courage to think of other people at their darkest moments is truly humbling.  As a specialist organ donation nurse, I become involved in the care of a patient. When there is nothing else that I can do to save them,  I do have the opportunity to save and improve the lives of so many others whilst supporting donor families.

I am passionate about excellent end of life care and feel strongly that everyone should be offered the option of organ donation if appropriate.  Our donor families also get to know, that something positive could come out of a terrible and untimely loss.  This can give them comfort and pride in the years to come, knowing that their loved one has saved the life of another.  This can ease their suffering is a small way.  Playing a small part of this journey is so rewarding and inspires me every single day.

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