What’s it like to save lives everyday working at Mid-America Transplant

Published February 15, 2022 in Blog

The mission of Mid-America Transplant (MT) is to save lives through excellence in organ and tissue donation. This means innovation is at the forefront of everything the organization does. It’s that spirit of innovation that inspired Melissa Stephens to move into the Organ Procurement Coordinator-Team Lead (OPC-TL) role. “For me, the most meaningful aspect of my role is the innovation that our culture facilitates,” she says. “We are inspired by our administrators and chief medical officer to be leaders in our industry when it comes to innovation, which makes for a really exciting work environment.”

In addition, Stephens says fulfilling the mission through innovation also translates into more lives being saved. “It’s a unique opportunity to lead our industry in our donor management protocols, which ultimately helps more recipients get transplanted. I am really honored to get to do that every day. It’s so fulfilling to transplant more organs and help our recipients have better outcomes.”

The mission-driven culture also inspired Heather Schuster to go from working as an ICU nurse for 10 years to becoming an Organ Procurement Coordinator (OPC) for MT. “I was always satisfied as an ICU nurse doing end of life care, but then I realized wow, there’s actually something after this. There’s a recipient waiting and there’s a donor family that I can help fulfill their wishes. Their stories hit me, and I got to a point where I was like I want to see this through.”

Now Schuster works as an OPC where she provides donor management to donors and then coordinates the transplant process including working with recipient centers to place the organs, assisting the surgical teams, and making sure the organs are still viable for donation. “It’s a very diverse role,” she adds.    

How an organ procurement coordinator fulfills the MAT mission
Stephens says her job as an OPC-TL is directly tied to the vision of MT which is to ensure organs and tissues are available to those in need. And it’s a job she doesn’t take lightly. “We do our best to be good stewards of that gift. It’s pretty amazing to see one person’s or family’s generosity turn into a life-saving gift that so many others are touched by,” she says.

Stephens also says the autonomy of the role makes her excited to come to work every day. “This role is very special because of the research that we do, which is imperative to making sure that we can do the best work possible,” she says. “The autonomy is amazing because we get to do things you might not get to do in other hospital settings.”  As an on-call role, an OPC could be called into a hospital to start a case and pay tribute to the donor and their family in a path of honor, an operating room to be a part of an organ retrieval, or called into the MT donor care unit for donor management.

What makes Mid-America Transplant unique?
Aside from being voted a 2021 Top Workplace by the St. Louis Dispatch, what makes working for Mid-America Transplant unique is their state-of-the-art onsite recovery facility. In 2008, they were the first organ procurement organization (OPO) to open an onsite recovery facility. Before, all organ and tissue recovery took place at the hospital. With a separate facility, the team at Mid-America has access to operating rooms, ICU, CT scanner, Cath lab, laboratory, and equipment designed specifically for organ and tissue recovery. These innovations empower the team to provide the best possible care for donors and deliver safe, reliable organs and tissues for transplant.

Schuster says she’s been able to advance her career and learn significantly more as a result of the innovation Mid-America is committed to. “It’s 10,000 steps further than what you’ve done as an ICU nurse,” she says. “They train us to do procedures here and to optimize all of the organs. It’s a lot of training but it feels pretty rewarding to know you’re doing something amazing.”

Stephens agrees. “Mid-America Transplant does a really good job of including our front-line staff with decision making and innovating our processes and protocols. That’s so different from what I experienced in a hospital environment. I’m floored every time my ideas are heard and utilized to improve our day-to-day jobs,” she says.

Join the Mid-America Transplant mission
Stephens has been with MAT since 2008 through a variety of different roles. She feels she’s found a home as an OPC because of the unique way it benefits the organization’s mission. “It makes my job easier knowing the hard work of our team is directly tied to a positive outcome. That’s the most rewarding part,” she says. “It’s really easy to see how the OPC role benefits the overall mission of the organization.”

Consider joining an organization committed to a lifesaving mission and find a rewarding career with Mid-America Transplant. View our current job openings