UC San Diego nurse Becky Dodd-Sullivan has a heartbreaking task, and a heart saving task. She supports families who have recently lost a loved one through the process of organ donation and orchestrates the entire organ donation process.
Her team’s care and compassion for these families has helped bring the percentage of families who choose organ donation up 70 to 80 percent in the San Diego area since she started more than 8 years ago. As a result, about 300 people receive lifesaving organ transplants annually.
“If families feel cared for, that translates into higher rates of donation,” Dodd-Sullivan said. “I know from the bottom of my heart that this is the most meaningful job of my lifetime.”
Nursing, particularly at UC San Diego, is a family tradition for Dodd-Sullivan. Her grandmother was a nurse, her mother worked several years at UC San Diego Medical Center even before the hospital held that name, and Dodd-Sullivan’s daughter is preparing to enter nursing. Dodd-Sullivan’s sister and brother-in-law have worked in the medical field at UC San Diego and her husband is a nurse as well.
While working in the Lifesharing organ donation program, Dodd-Sullivan added a critical case study and literature review to the field. She noticed that when a person was in the last moments of life, they would appear to breathe on their own. But in reality, super-sensitive breathing machines were giving oxygen. A change in treatment now helps the medical team know if the person is breathing independently or with the help of a machine, a crucial element on the road to organ recovery. Her work was published in June in Progress and Transplantation, the main industry trade journal on organ donation and transplantation.
“Magnet recognized that UC San Diego encourages the input of nursing at all levels,” Dodd-Sullivan said. “Nursing is important to the care of the patient, and UC San Diego encourages further evidence-based practice. With nurses being involved in research, they are partly responsible for the future of medicine and how patients are integrated into care. At UC San Diego, nurses are part of that future.”
The dedicated nurse is about to finish her master’s degree and move on to another specialty within the nursing field, but she hopes to stay with UC San Diego.
“Seeing other nurses return to school inspired me to further my education,” Dodd-Sullivan said. “UC San Diego really promotes a culture of appreciating the extra education.”
In addition to her work with UC San Diego, Dodd-Sullivan has participated in trips to Mexico with large groups to repair children’s cleft palates. And in recent years, she co-founded a smaller mission deeper into Mexico that helps more patients receive the surgeries and follow-up care they need to live a normal life.