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Rewarding roles for caring experts

Shibu Chacko, MBE is a Specialist Organ Donation Nurse. He tells us why organ donation nursing is the role for him.

This is not just a job, it is a vocation and I am proud to be part of such a wonderful team. Shibu Chacko.jpeg
Shibu Chacko

Specialist Nurse - Organ Donation

Shibu's story

I have worked at NHSBT within Organ Donation and Transplantation (ODT) for five years and it has flown by. After completing my nursing degree in India, I arrived in the UK and worked at an acute NHS Trust in various roles in adult medicine and critical care.

Before joining NHSBT, I worked in critical care as a specialist nurse for six years.

The Specialist Nurse – Organ Donation role mainly involves supporting families in intensive care units and emergency departments in making an informed choice on organ donation and then facilitating the whole process of donation.
Shibu Chacko - Specialist Nurse - Organ Donation

I work in hospitals across the SouthEast region to support families through the organ donation process. I am the key point of contact for organ donation within the hospital and work directly with families and doctors to ensure that all those who die in circumstances where they are able and want to donate organs for transplant are given the opportunity to do so.

I also support families during end of life care period and discuss organ donation options with them. Organ donation comes at a traumatic time for families - when a loved one dies. Talking about organ donation as part of the end of life care is very emotional and I am responsible for handling complex situations sensitively by giving appropriate support to the donor family. One of the biggest challenges of the role is addressing family concerns in an environment of grief and sadness.

The Specialist Nurse – Organ Donation role mainly involves supporting families in intensive care units and emergency departments in making an informed choice on organ donation and then facilitating the whole process of donation.

I work with clinicians and hospital staff but I also engage with local communities as well, to help raise awareness and answer questions and address misunderstandings about organ donation. I enjoy the variety of my role, working with adults, young people and children, as well as members of the hospital teams. Although the work can be very emotional, I meet such lovely people every day. Working with families means there is a lot of fun and laughter as well as sadness.

Organ donation and transplantation is such a prominent field of medicine and I am honoured to be a small part of the team that is continuously working to make each patient's life better. My role in ODT is hugely rewarding and full of challenges, which is great.

When I started my role in donation 5 years ago, I was faced with the reality of a high number of donation refusals. There was a poor understanding of the importance of donation, a lack of information about how the donation takes place, as well as a fear of mutilation, mixed with cultural and religious reasons.

As I experienced several declines from my own South Asian community, I decided to do something to address this issue. Having established links with the ethnic minority communities in the South East through my role as an office bearer of a community organisation in Kent, I used these links to spread the message among my community members. I have used an approach as an educator and campaigner, used leaflets in regional languages and spent time in clarifying people's doubts about the process.

On average 30-40 people signed up from each event organised. The case of an altruistic kidney donor from within the community has helped me to spread awareness. Many faith communities engage in health promotion activities among their community members in areas such as smoking cessation, healthy eating, diabetes and hypertension management etc and I have asked them to include organ donation to these activities.

The various activities over the last 5 years allowed me to achieve several hundred new registrations to the NHS Organ Donor Register.

I also co-created the world's first course on Organ donation for healthcare professionals to understand the key processes in organ donation - in partnership with the St. George's University of London. NHS Blood and Transplant has fully endorsed this course as an approved programme of study. I am currently acting as the lead educator for the course along with a professor from the University. This course has been a huge success and has received excellent feedback from professionals within and outside the UK.

Joining NHSBT was a wonderful opportunity for me as it has allowed me to move to a large national organisation that is focused on a good cause. I enjoy working here as I am surrounded by passionate people. My role within NHS Blood and Transplant is hugely rewarding and full of challenges, which is great, there’s never a dull moment! The great part about working with NHS Blood and Transplant is; we collaboratively leverage each other's strengths, teaming together across the region.

I am extremely honoured to have been appointed an MBE in the Queen's Birthday Honours list 2019 and delighted that the work I do with the promotion of organ donation among the minority communities is considered to be worthy of inclusion. I am hugely honoured to be recognised for my work.