Nurses push tissue donation to new heights

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Tissue donation changes lives - and a push from two North Bristol Trust nurses means more tissue is being donated through Frenchay Hospital’s Emergency Department than ever before.
Today, nearly 90% of people whose next of kin die in Frenchay’s Emergency Department (ED) are offered the option of tissue donation, and the ED is facilitating around seven tissue donations a month.
However this time last year, Frenchay ED nurses Lisa Thomas and Vicky Stanley calculated that only one tissue donation was coming from ED each month, and discussions with family members about tissue donation weren’t always taking place.
Unlike organs, it can be possible to donate tissue up to 48 hours after a person has died. In general, tissues that can be donated are eyes, heart valves, skin, bone and tendons; however, in the South West, only eye and heart valves can be donated.
After surveying all ED nurses, Lisa and Vicky identified a gap in staff awareness around tissue donation. The main concern was hesitancy from staff to discuss the option of donation with bereaved families at what is a highly emotional and difficult time.

“We realised that work was needed to raise awareness among staff. We organised a training day to teach ED nurses on the specifics of tissue donation, and how to sensitively raise the subject with the next of kin,” Vicky said.
“A few simple paperwork changes means nurses are now being prompted to find out if a patient is on the Organ Donor Register, and broach the issue of tissue donation with the next of kin or family member. We’re also on hand to provide ad hoc training to staff where needed.”
Lisa added: “We want family and next of kin to be aware of their options so they can make an informed decision,” she said.
Many kinds of tissue can be donated - eyes, heart valves, skin and bone. A cornea transplant can restore someone's sight, a bone transplant can prevent limb amputation in bone cancer patients and skin grafts can treat people for severe burns
Some tissues can be donated during life, but most are donated after death - up to 48 hours after a person has died.
The tissues donated by one donor may enable up to 40 people to benefit from tissue transplant surgery
The Bristol Tissue Co-ordination Service (BTCS) provides information to bereaved families, the general public and healthcare professionals about all aspects of tissue donation and transplantation. It is a 24 hour, on-call service, which promotes and facilitates tissue donation. The care of the deceased and their family is a key priority.
Bristol has one of the two major eye banks in the country, which between them supply 90% of the corneas for transplantation. It also has one of the country’s heart valve banks, who supply heart valves for children and adults in Bristol and other hospitals around the country.
To donate tissue:
Under current law, if you want to donate organs or tissue after death you must make your wishes known. You can do this by:
· Telling your next of kin or family about your wishes
· Joining the NHS organ donor register by calling 0845 60 60 400
· Visiting http://www.organdonation.nhs.uk/ to get a donor card or enter your details on the register.
The NHS Organ Donor Register is a confidential, computerised database that currently holds the names of nearly 16 million people who have decided to donate their tissue, organs or both. The register is used to check if, and what, a person wanted to donate. Donor cards are still used but, because they can be lost or stolen, the NHS Organ Donor Register is the best way of ensuring your wishes are permanently recorded.