Nurse Clinician Tan Hui Fen, Operating Theatres (OT), SGH has been involved in organ procurement and transplantation surgeries for 10 years. She has assisted in countless transplantation surgeries and shared that the key challenge is the extra level of coordination as the team needs to time the donor surgery and recipient surgery for optimal outcomes.
"Transplant surgeries can be especially difficult for OT nurses during deceased donor procurement surgeries. Knowing that the patient has passed on and is giving a gift of life to someone else makes it a very emotional moment for us. We remember that we are helping to save another person's life and that drives us to focus during long surgeries," said Ms Tan.
One of her most memorable experiences early in her career was observing, Assoc Prof Alexander Chung during a procurement surgery. She recalled how he quietly thanked the donor and ensured that the donor's eyes were closed after cornea retrieval. His actions inspired her to show a similar level of respect and care for deceased donors. On top of her clinical duties, Ms Tan also trains younger nurses, passing on her skills and experiences.
For Senior Staff Nurse Sivaranjee, Ward 64E-Renal, SGH caring for organ recipients post-transplant, has been very fulfilling. "We are aware of how precious the transplanted organ is to the recipient," said SSN Sivaranjanee. "As transplant nurses, we need to be very patient and understanding when we educate patients on their recovery process. They may not retain information as quickly especially when they experience extreme stress and become overly fearful about falling sick." One of her most memorable patients was a living donor renal recipient whom she cared for almost nine months. He experienced rejection and delayed graft function with many complications that could have resulted in removal of the donated kidney. Throughout his stay in the hospital, he was not allowed to leave the ward, the nurses became his confidants and a second family who comforted him. "We were all overjoyed when he gradually recovered! Till today, he would drop by the ward to visit us whenever he comes for his check-ups."
For nurses who are just starting out, her advice to them is to focus on tailoring care according to each patient's needs. Other than having in-depth knowledge and strong nursing skills, she added that ward nurses also need to be prepared to provide emotional support to their patients and caregivers. Through medical advancements, she hopes that immunosuppressant medications can be reduced to prevent complications such as cardiovascular problems and malignancy among transplant recipients in the future.
Senior Staff Nurse Jolene Guek, Ward 72- Haematology, SGH describes her experience caring for transplant patients as challenging due to the detailed planning that goes into their daily care. As a nurse caring for Hematopoietic Stem Cell Transplant patients, medication administration is complex as there are multiple medications via IV and limited venous access. "Not only do we monitor their medication, we also try to allocate some time for them to be free of the IV so that they are free to move around and do daily activities such as showering" The ability to multitask comes with training and experience over the years. She added, "We also need to have a strong sense of urgency and think on our feet as transplant patients in particular can deteriorate quickly if concerns are not escalated in a timely manner."
Transplant nurses not only give but they also gain motivation from their patients and their caregivers. Ms Guek recalls a particularly jovial elderly transplant patient who was always in high spirits despite dealing with life-threatening medical issues. "I will always remember her for her ability to keep her spirits up even in the darkest of times. Such patients remind me that no matter what happens in life, we can always find a reason to smile and we should cherish every moment."