September 2014 - RPNs learn how to harvest donated human eyes

An amazing pilot project was launched in 2014 in a small hospital in Petrolia, Ontario. RPNs there have been specially trained to do an important procedure: remove the corneas and other parts of the eye from patients who had signed up to be organ donors. The procedure, which is referred to as ‘eye enucleation,’ has brought eyesight to 32 people from Petrolia donors since the program started!

Before the Petrolia RPNs were trained to do this, bodies would be transported to Sarnia for RNs to do the eye enucleation. SEIU Healthcare Executive Board member Claudette Drapeau helped get the project to where it is today by working with management and encouraging fellow RPNs.

Claudette has been working as an RPN for 37 years and helped Bluewater Health to form a union in 1989 to fight for workers’ values and priorities.

Claudette says “the nurses at Petrolia hospital really stepped up to the plate to get this done, so kudos to them.” Performing the eye enucleation at the hospital where the donor patient dies is better for the families, as moving the body less causes less trauma for them.

This is the first RPN team to do eye enucleation in Ontario and Claudette hopes that their success encourages other hospitals to start.

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