The role of the Specialist Nurse in Organ Donation


Specialist Nurses – Organ Donation, also know as SN-ODs, are nearly always senior nurses from a clinical background usually in intensive care or emergency medicine. The role of the SN-OD encompasses an on-call element to support the facilitation of organ donation in addition to a role within the Hospital, Trust or Hospital Board to which they are allocated.

The role of the Specialist Nurse – Organ Donation within the Hospital

The SN-OD is the focal point of contact for organ donation within the Hospital / Trust; the role encompasses many different aspects, which all come together in the identification and referral of potential organ and tissue donors. Aspects of the role include:

  • Identification of potential organ and tissue donors in collaboration with the clinical teams in critical care environments.
  • Working with clinical teams to ensure the relevant pathways are established to support timely identification and referral of potential organ and tissue donors.
  • Potential Donor Audit (PDA) – SN-ODs are responsible for the completion of the potential donor audit in all patients aged 75 years or under who die in the intensive care or emergency departments. Further information regarding the PDA can be found at (link)
  • Provision of teaching and education sessions to the following groups:
    • Clinical staff in intensive care, operating theatres and emergency departments
    • Medical and nursing staff
    • Student and post-graduate nurses
    • Student Operating Department Practitioners
    • Police, Coroners and Procurators Fiscal
  • A key member of the Organ Donation Committee within the Trust / Hospital Board, working in close collaboration with the Clinical Lead – Organ Donation (CL-OD) and the Committee Chair.

The role of the on-call Specialist Nurse – Organ Donation

Each SN-OD participates in an on-call rota within the organ donation region to which they are assigned.

Each of the 12 regions has an Organ Donation Services Team with between two and four SN-ODs on-call at any one time to respond to referrals from the hospitals within their region. On receipt of a referral the SN-OD is able to check the Organ Donor Register (ODR) to ascertain if the patient has recorded a wish to donate and, in conjunction with the national transplant centres and the relevant national guidance, establish if the patient would be eligible to donate organs and / or tissues following their death.

The role of the on-call SN-OD is to provide information and support to the family of a potential organ donor in collaboration with the critical care team. In addition they support and advise the clinical team caring for a patient and manage the donation process, this includes: It is important that any patient who may be a potential donor is referred to the SN-OD in a timely manner to ensure that they are able to provide advice regarding the patient’s suitability to donate organs and/or tissues.

The SN-OD has the detailed knowledge and expertise to lead the donation process in collaboration with the clinical team; therefore it is important that they are involved in both the planning and family approach for donation as early as possible. This ensures that families are provided with the information and support they require to make an informed decision about organ donation.

The contact details for the SN-OD on-call can be found on the intensive care unit or emergency department in the hospital.

Next section: Living Donation

Incident Reporting

Report an incident during the organ donation pathway.

Report incident now

Register as a donor

Register with us to become an organ donor.

Join Register now