Wednesday, April 11, 2012

A team effort supports organ donation

As part of our commitment to organ donation, CoxHealth has held organ and tissue donor registration drives and public events, such as the one shown above, that honor donors and their families. Currently, the Organ Donation Council is developing organ donation champions who will support the process by serving as a resource for staff members and the families of organ donors.

Among the patient stories that unfolded at Cox South in 2011 are seven that will have a lasting effect on the lives of 26 others. These seven people were, through either a personal or family decision, organ donors. Another 64 patients became tissue donors, potentially helping 3,200 others, since for every one tissue donor, 50 people are helped. There were also 115 eye donors.

In every one of those stories, there are patient care staff members at CoxHealth who helped – in big and small ways – to make the donation possible, from the physician who alerted Pastoral Care about a potential donor, to the chaplain who lovingly informed the family of a potential donor about the option of donation, to the nurse who helped with the emotionally delicate process of preparing the donor while comforting the grieving family.

“It’s quite an involved process and every step of the way is the realization that even though the family has had a great loss, they’re giving a great gift,” says chaplain Peggy Wobbema, Pastoral Care. “That’s why we call donors heroes. They become a hero to someone.”

April is National Organ and Tissue Donor Awareness month, a time to honor those donor heroes and their families and to recognize the hospital team that plays an important role in the process. CoxHealth, led by members of the system’s Donation Council, is marking the occasion this year by unveiling a donor memorial in the atrium of Cox South (below).
“This donor memorial is a great way to show our fellow employees, our families and visitors how important the gift of donation is to us and to celebrate the gift of life that continues to have an effect on recipients and the community,” says Mary Hines, one of the nurse managers for Cox South’s intensive care units.

The donor memorial will mark a new phase in the activities of the Donation Council, whose members want to create a culture of donation at CoxHealth, where staff members in the donation process support one another to provide the best possible service to both donors and their families.

The council’s next big project is the creation of a donor champion program. The council is in the beginning stages of seeking interested staff members in intensive care units and the Emergency Department to serve as donor champions. The roles of a donor champion include:

• serving as a resource for unit staff during the donation process

• helping with education forums within the unit about donation-related topics

• possessing a firm understanding of the clinical triggers of donation

• providing service excellence to families in collaboration with Mid-America Transplant Services, 

Missouri’s organ procurement organization, and the hospital team to ensure the opportunity of donation is given to each eligible family so they can make an informed decision.

Wobbema says the donor champion program, which will be patterned after the hospital’s stroke champion program, is an enhancement of the team approach to the organ donation process.

“Our donation champions would be on the unit to help a fellow staff member through the process,” says Wobbema. “We want staff to know that when they are taking care of that patient, they are not alone. They have a whole team behind them – the donor champion, the chaplain who helps with the family and an MTS representative who assists with family and nursing aspects of donation.”

Wobbema hopes the new program provides a greater confidence and comfort level for staff in the donation process. Initially, the council wants several champions in each intensive care unit and in the Emergency Department.

“Once we get the ICU program going, we hope to eventually create a program that has a nurse on each unit who could be tissue donor champions,” says Wobbema. “Donation saves lives and it enhances lives. We also know that donation helps families through the grieving process.”

Marjorie Bryan, MTS organ program specialist assigned to CoxHealth, says having champions on each unit will increase donation awareness, communication among the hospital team and the knowledge base of people who are educated about the purpose and the process, as well as those who could become trained requestors.

“Some health care workers might have the perspective that by requesting organs, somehow we are damaging the family,” says Bryan. “That’s not the case. Offering donation options to families is just good patient and family care.”

Donation facts

Members of the CoxHealth Donation Council include staff from the ED, Surgery, intensive care units, Pastoral Care, Respiratory Care, the CoxHealth Education Center and Corporate Communications.

According to the Department of Health and Human Services:

• 113,442 people are waiting for an organ

• 18 people will die each day waiting for an organ

• one organ donor can save up to eight lives.

You may register online to become an organ and tissue donor at