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Ms Vicki Caldwell

Profile summary

Professional biography

Vicki is an OU regional Social Work academic. Following the sudden and unexpected death of her daughter in March 2016, Vicki has become interested in ‘active grief’: activities that don’t make your grief heavier and can help with finding a new way of living with hope following a loss. Some of Vicki’s active grief strategies have include developing learning resources around end-of-life experiences, organ donation and the grief that follows. Other active grief strategies include involvement in community-based activities that have been inspired by her daughter’s memory.

Vicki is the founding Trustee of FEES Fund an education charity set up in memory of Fiona Braidwood awarding grants so young people can take part in enrichment activities. Vicki has shared her experience of organ donation in support of NHSBT ‘Leave Them Certain’: a public awareness campaign. The recent law changes to opt out in most parts of the UK means families remain at the centre of the organ donation  decision-making process. Families are now approached to support organ donation if no objection decision has previously been registered.

Vicki is a member of the Open Thanatology research group, North Bristol organ donation committee and an active member of NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) ‘National Donor Families advisory group’. Vicki’s interest in organ donation and transplant services remains focused on ensuring donor families have a strong voice within research, policy development and shaping service improvements in both end-of-life hospital care and bereavement aftercare support.  


Research interests

Vicki is a member of the Open Thanatology research group. In her social work academic role at the Open University, she has developed the following resources  this has included:-


  • Sharing lived experience on a podcast

Caldwell, Vicki (2022) Organ Donation: hope and transition after an unexpected death: Episode 20 Claire Fuller Advance Care Planning.  Release date May 2022 . Available at 


  • Writing about grief experience during lockdown as part of an OU edited book Narratives of Covid

Caldwell, V (2021) ‘A Postcard from my dad’: A Narrative of what he taught me about death, loss, and grief’,  in Borgstrom, E and Mallon, S. (ed) Narratives of Covid: loss dying and grief during covid 19. Milton Keynes: Open University, P167-173 (also available as free ebook)


  • Taking part in a BBC ideas film exploring some of the ethical dilemmas in kidney donation

BBC Ideas: (2022): Should Human Kidneys be bought and sold?


  • Developing an organ donation Open Learn resources sharing other donor family experiences

Caldwell, Vicki (2022) A Gift of life at the end of life.  Available at Open learn A gift of life at the end of life - OpenLearn - Open University



Teaching interests

  • Delivering higher apprenticeship training in partnership with employer partners.
  • Improving work- based learning tuition support within apprenticeship delivery.
  • Strengthening the voice of service users within professional learning and development.
  • Enhancing students learning through small group teaching in higher education.
  • Peer support  in the development of teaching and learning resources.
  • Design and delivering practice educator development sessions
  • Donor families lived experience within organ donation and aftercare bereavement support services 
  • The role of active grief: The use of shared narratives to support adjustments and sense making after sudden loss


Impact and engagement

NHSBT/BTS 2023 UK Awards for Excellence in Organ and Tissue Donation and Transplanation

Exceptional Volunteer catagory


Vicki Caldwell


BTS NHSBT Joint Congress 2023  

2nd March 2023: Living Well, Living Long, Living with Hope

Chairs: Dale Gardiner & Anthony Clarkson

The “lived experience” of two transplant recipients and a donor mum. Come and listen to how their personal experience of organ donation and transplantation allows them to look to the future with hope from their contrasting perspectives.

Introduction – Dale Gardiner: National Clinical Lead for Organ Donation

  • Vicki Caldwell – Donor Family
  • Ross Monteith – liver recipient
  • Eliza Bell – Living again – 4 years post heart transplant

Closing  – Anthony Clarkson: NHSBT Director of Organ and Tissue Donation and Tranplantation 



External collaborations

Vicki is a member of the following NHS Blood and Transplant (NHSBT) groups:-

  • North Bristol Organ Donation Committee
  • NHSBT ‘National Donor Families Advisory Group’.

These external collaborations have created opportunity to hear the voice of donor families and have impact on research, policy development and in helping to shape service improvements in both end-of-life hospital care and bereavement aftercare support.


Vicki is the Founding Trustee of FEES Fund - ‘Fi’s Enrichment Education Support (FEES) Fund set up in memory of Fiona Braidwood. FEES Fund is a registered charity education that awards grants to children and young people who live in families where money is tight, so they can take part in extracurricular activities. FEES Fund pays the fees helping to remove financial barriers  

The grant funding aims to inspire a love of learning building new skills, nurturing young people’s talents and create opportunity that wouldn’t have been possible without this funding


Conference abstract accepted Italy 2023

7th – 9th Sept 2023 DDD16 Conference-  Learning from Suffering and Dying Learning from suffering, fear of death and dying: New languages from sciences to the humanities – (LSFDD) (

 Life, death, and organ donation: a case example of the grief and learning  following this end-of-life experience

As a society we can find it uncomfortable to hear the voices of bereaved parents, particularly when a traumatic accident has resulted in a sudden death. These voices often remain hidden, with limited opportunities to hear directly from families and learn from their diverse perspectives and end-of-life experiences.

This presentation will explore a case example detailing the grief and life adjustments for a bereaved family who agreed to organ donation following their daughter death. It will cover the end-of-life hospital care after the devastating news that the head injury sustained by her daughter in the car accident , was not survivable. Vicki describes the professional family centred care they experienced, what they valued and how having certainty about her daughter’s organ donation wishes empowered the family on that difficult day.