Organ Programs Educate Medical Professionals on the Gift of Life

Contact Information
(608) 263-0356
UW Health Services

MADISON - April is Donate Life month, a time to remember the orange dot on your driver's license and ensure that friends and family know your wishes about organ donation.


While the general community is learning more about how each person may give the gift of life, doctors, nurses and other medical staff across the state are learning how to discuss this important subject with patient families at a difficult time.

"Grieving families need the support of someone they know and trust, someone who has been at the bedside of their loved one and is familiar to them," says Sue Hamilton, RN, a UW Organ and Tissue Donation hospital donation services specialist. "We provide training for medical professionals on how to share information with families so that they can make informed decisions based on their own values and beliefs."

Hamilton is one of seven hospital development professionals who work with the 104 hospitals within the UW service area to help them remain compliant with federal organ donation regulations and offer individualized care and compassion to families working through the decision to donate.

The UW Organ and Tissue Donation service offers "designated requester" education for hospital staff to help them approach families and offer the opportunity of donation. Most hospitals send their emergency room and intensive care unit registered nurses for the training, and may also send hospital managers and clergy. Hamilton says they see medical providers of all levels of experience, but there is one trait common to all.

"First and foremost, they must have a bedrock belief in donation," she says. "Making this kind of request is a process, not a one-time question. Families feel like they know and can trust the nurse they've been seeing every day. The feelings hospital staff share about donation are apparent in their compassionate care."

Broad Organ Donation Guidance to the Medical Community


In addition to the more intensive designated requester training, the OPO hospital development staff offers broader guidance to physicians and the medical community on a variety of subjects, including clinical triggers, donation after cardiac death and the process of declaring brain death. Specialized education is available for OR staff, respiratory therapists and hospital clergy, and a "Donation 101" overview is a popular option for new employee orientations.

Hand in hand with education, the OPO assists hospitals in navigating the mazes of federal organ procurement regulations along with Joint Commission and CMS requirements. This includes maintaining a dashboard of monthly rates of referral, timely referral, consent and conversion, as well as death reporting general compliance. Regular chart reviews are done to produce the above dashboards.


After a donation takes place, the OPO staff collaborates with hospital staff to conduct a review of the donation process from the time of referral to recovery, to identify what went well and areas for improvement. Regardless of size, Hamilton says, the key is the relationship between OPO and hospital staff members.

"We work as a team," she says. "Having strong relationships between our team and the hospitals means a greater range of resources and support for patients and families."

For more information about the UW Organ and Tissue Donation and its hospital development programs, call (608) 263-0356.


Date published: 4/28/2008