Stephanie MacDonald - Organ and Tissue Donation Coordinator

CurioCity Careers
1 December 2017

Stephanie MacDonald

Organ and Tissue Donation Coordinator

I was born/grew up in: I was born in Windsor, Ontario. I was adopted by my parents when I was just 10 weeks old.

I now live in: I’ve never left my hometown! Born and raised in Windsor, and still living here now.

I completed my training/education at: I completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at the University of Windsor.

Describe what you do at work.

Like most nursing jobs, I never really know what to expect when I get in to work each day. However, this role is very different from what people would commonly call nursing. My office is in the middle of the intensive care unit and I wear regular clothes to work instead of scrubs.

I work closely with a team of doctors and nurses to facilitate the complex process of testing to determine if the potential donor’s organs and tissues are healthy enough to donate. Once a match is found for someone who is waiting for a transplant, I help coordinate the organ recovery surgery. This involves communicating with the hospital’s operating room staff, transplant surgeons and my colleagues at Trillium Gift of Life Network.

There are many challenges that can occur throughout this process, which requires a high level of critical thinking, problem-solving and communication skills. The ability to work in a fast-paced, highly emotional, goal-oriented environment is key.

This nursing role takes me back to my anatomy and physiology studies, as I strive to understand how the body systems work, and how different medical conditions can impact the function of our organs. There are a lot of important decisions made every day in the world of donation and transplantation in Ontario. I am just one part of the amazing process where the end result leads to someone receiving a life-saving organ transplant. When the family makes the generous decision to proceed with donation, it often brings them hope and comfort knowing that their loved one may be able to save the life of someone else sick and waiting for a transplant in the province. These conversations are the most important part of my role.

When I was a student I enjoyed:

How does your job affect people’s lives?

People say to me: “Those conversations must be so hard”, but I get to meet some of the most amazing families. In the midst of their own grief, they see the potential to save a life. Organ donation relies on the compassion of humanity, and I am witness to this every day. It is the most challenging, but also the most interesting and rewarding job I have had in my nursing career so far.

What motivates you in your career?

The easy answer would be SAVING LIVES! But there is much more to it than that.

What excites me most is that I get the very best of both worlds: I spend half my time caring very closely for the family who is losing their loved one – listening to stories, counseling and offering support throughout the beginning of their grief journey. This is the most important part for me – making a meaningful connection. But I am also still able to utilize my nursing skills as I work with nurses and doctors.

My job is rewarding, as I bear witness to the goodness that survives in a world that doesn’t always seem so bright all the time. Bad things happen to good people every day. It’s what people choose to do in the face of despair that keeps me grounded.

My job gives me a special perspective on life. When I worry about that new couch that I want or the pool I can’t afford… my job brings me back to reality – to that age old saying “it could be worse”. The life lessons in donation are sacrifice, kindness and compassion.

When I was a student, I would have described myself as someone who:

Describe your career path to this career.

When I was five I told my mom I wanted to be a nurse so I could help people. As I came closer to graduating high school, I contemplated engineering, medicine and nursing. In the end, I stuck with my dream and graduated with a Bachelor’s of Science Degree in Nursing.

I wanted to work in the ER for the excitement, but after working there for a few years I needed a change. I noticed I was missing a key aspect in nursing – the ability to connect with families. In the ER there isn’t much time to get to know the people you are caring for. That’s when I moved to the ICU. It was here I was first exposed to the concept of organ donation, and it was an eye opening experience for me. I was so fascinated by it, and the hope that it gave families who were experiencing tremendous loss.

What activities do you like to do outside of work?

I have two children, so I spend a lot of time with family, going to the lake house, boating and working on my tan. I also enjoy reading and running – when I find the time. But a good episode of Game of Thrones will do too.

What advice or encouragement would you give others seeking a similar career?

Study hard. Persevere. Even if you screw up, it isn’t the end of the world just keep working at it. Invest the time in yourself because you are worth it. Ask to shadow someone in the field for a day. Above all – smile. It just makes the day better.

CurioCity Careers

We hope you enjoyed learning about this great STEM career! The information in this career profile was provided by this individual especially for CurioCity. We hope it helped give you a sense of what this type of job is really like.

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