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Passion Drives Donor Councils

Posted July 23, 2012 in Hospital Partner News

In working with 120 hospitals, Mid-America Transplant Services is proud to recognize the efforts of our hospital partners. In recent years, many of our partners have started donor councils, groups designed to educate staff and the public, and ensure every family is given the opportunity to donate their loved one’s organs and tissue. While the constant in each example below is the passionate people behind the donor council, these examples show how different models, goals and approaches can be successful. We’re excited to share their best practices.

cox-donor-memorialDonation Council members (left to right), Mary Hines, Marsha Ballard, Peggy Wobbema, Nancy Sadler, Marjorie Bryan, Don Lucore, and Kharim Strayhorn are pictured by the donor memorial wall honoring organ and tissue donors at CoxHealth in Springfield.

Shortly after CoxHealth developed a donor council and shared its inception with employees, council members started hearing from passionate colleagues with a personal connection to organ and tissue donation. There was a woman in medical records, another person whose brother was a donor 20 years ago, and many stories from environmental services.

“Once we started getting the word out, it was amazing the number of people who have come to us to tell us about their connection to donation,” said Mary Hines, a neuro trauma ICU nurse manager at CoxHealth in Springfield, MO. “We now have people on our council that we wouldn’t have dreamed to ask because they’re not patient care, but they’re very passionate and are a great addition to our council.”

A recent informal survey of half a dozen donor councils in the Mid-America Transplant Services area revealed a similar theme of finding people who are passionate about organ and tissue donation to join a donor council. While this typically includes critical care nurses and pastoral care, some facilities have found unique representation.

In the community

The donor council at Phelps County Regional Medical Center (PCRMC) includes a license office manager, coroner, funeral director and a radio disc jockey. The latter relationship has fostered a 15-30 minute monthly radio program on KTTR NewsRadio with Lee Buhr. The topic focuses on an aspect of organ and tissue donation, including one program that featured a recipient’s mother. “We talked about the other side of organ and tissue donation, how joyous it is but how there’s a lot of guilt,” said Cindy Butler, director of cricital care at PCRMC. “We flipped it around from the waiting person’s perspective.”

“You have to start out with those people who are passionate. Get your core group of people and figure out what you want to do.” - Mary Hines, neuro trauma ICU nurse manager at CoxHealth


phelps-county-315xDonor recognition event at Phelps County Regional Medical Center.

PCRMC’s donor council decided to focus its efforts on community outreach. The group has organized involvement in a number of health fairs and community events at Missouri University of Science and Technology and local businesses. “We wanted to reach out to the public,” Butler said. “We wanted it to be a community council more than a hospital council. So we sought out leaders of local businesses. We just looked at the big industries, and asked, ‘If we can get someone interested, what industries would serve the best purpose for what we want to do?’” Additionally, PCRMC has started offering donor recognition events to honor donors who have given the Gift of Life.

At Mercy Hospital in Lebanon, the donor council is utilizing a partnership with a marketing department at Missouri State University. Students are tasked with creating a campaign aimed at students joining the organ and tissue donor registry. Through these campaigns, hundreds of MSU students join the registry annually. The marketing students later present their campaign to MTS and Mercy Hospital representatives. 

Educating staff

Other facilities, like Barnes-Jewish Hospital (BJH), have opted to focus the donor council’s efforts on internal education.  Consisting of spiritual care, social workers, ICU nurse managers, physicians and more, the committee reviewed the process of organ donation to identify gaps and areas of improvement. “It was immediately clear that staff were unsure and not consistent with the process of donation,” said Gene Ridolfi, director of the Washington University/Barnes-Jewish Hospital Transplant Center. “The initial ICU accepted it with open arms. Any time you can provide staff key steps to take, they don’t have to guess at the process. ” BJH is in the process of rolling out the program to other units.

Ridolfi echoed the need to find the right people for the council. “I don’t think it can be represented by nursing alone or by a transplant center alone,” said Ridolfi, who added staff have been very engaged in the development and implementation of standard processes for organ donation. “It requires your OPO to be a key part of it, your spiritual care leaders, your social workers and your nurse managers and you need a physician champion.”

Back at CoxHealth, the council is starting to identify donation champions in clinical areas to assist new employees or those who have limited experience with the donation process. Champions of a specific unit are a growing trend at the hospital, with stroke and trauma champions assisting inexperienced staff work through challenges.

“The goal of this is to have RNs that will be donor champions in our Intensive Care Units and the ER,” said CoxHealth Chaplain and donor council chair Peggy Wobbema, who said having the right people on the council has created a culture of organ and tissue donation at the hospital. “There are a lot of nurses who haven’t cared for an organ donor before, maybe aren’t so sure about it themselves. So the goal is to have RNs on each shift that are specifically trained as resource people for the nurses caring for a donor. If that nurse is a little uneasy or hasn’t walked that path before, then the donor champion will be a hands-on resource to help that RN in the process.”

As is the case with everyone on their council, these donation champions are among the most passionate about donation at their facility, a point that Mary Hines said is vital to the success of their donor council.

“You have to start out with those people who are passionate,” she said. “Get your core group of people and figure out what you want to do. Get your mission, values, and goals and move forward. Then add the people that can help you get there. Really, it’s the passion about this that drives it.”

For more information about forming a Donation Council in your hospital, contact your MTS Donor Program Specialist.

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