Organ donation committees work together to save lives

Carla Hannon, APRN, and Dr. Gary Kaml are co-chairs of the Organ Donation Committee on the SRC where the Donate Life flag is now raised when a patient donates an organ or tissues. On both campuses, staff raise the flag to commemorate a donation and present a flag to the donor's family.
Carla Hannon, APRN, and Dr. Gary Kaml are co-chairs of the Organ Donation Committee on the SRC where the Donate Life flag is now raised when a patient donates an organ or tissues. On both campuses, staff raise the flag to commemorate a donation and present a flag to the donor's family.

With a Transplantation Center that attracts patients from around the world, Yale-New Haven Hospital's Organ Donation Committee members are well aware of the critical need for organs and tissue.

Since October 1, 2012, 12 patients on both YNHH campuses have donated organs, saving the lives of 44 people. But more than 900 YNHH patients remain on the organ waiting list.

Organ Donation Committee members are always working to increase the numbers of registered donors and organs and tissue donated. The New England Organ Bank (NEOB) coordinates recovery of organs and tissues from deceased donors.

"Many people wait a long time for an organ or tissue donation, and, sadly, many die while waiting," said Carol Just, RN, MSN, co-chair of the York Street Campus committee. "Organ and tissue donation give us the opportunity to improve, or even save, lives."

Throughout the year, Just and other committee members participate in organ and tissue drives, health fairs and other community events to encourage hospital employees and the public to register as donors. Anyone interested in registering can visit www.DonateLifeNewEngland.org or at the Department of Motor Vehicles when renewing their drivers licenses.

With the integration of the Hospital of Saint Raphael last year, organ donation committees on both campuses are also sharing best practices, including educating staff about when to consider referral for organ and tissue donation. Both campuses use NEOB forms that list medical guidelines, explained Carla Hannon, APRN, co-chair of the SRC Organ Donation Committee.

"We've used these forms for years, but with integration, the committees on both campuses have worked to get the forms in front of caregivers and ensure they're comfortable using them," Hannon said.

Committee members also frequently remind clinicians to contact the NEOB within one hour of a donor's death, since tissue must be recovered within a certain timeframe. These reminders occur during safety huddles and regular communication between unit charge nurses and NEOB representatives. In addition, Epic includes prompts that help the process.

Efforts to improve timeliness are yielding results. In October 2012, 61 percent of SRC staff contacted the NEOB within one hour; as of June 2013 that figure had increased to 93 percent. On the YSC, the rate increased from 61 percent to a high of 83 percent.

For the past year, the committees have collaborated to increase tissue donations, including skin, bone, tendons, heart valves and corneas. Since October 1, 2012, the hospital has had 36 tissue donors. Each tissue donor has the potential to positively affect the lives of more than 50 people.

"Organ donation committees on both campuses have worked tirelessly for years to increase the number of organ and tissue donations, and these ongoing efforts are making a difference," said Linda Maerz, MD, co-chair of the YSC Organ Donation Committee. "Working together, and with the help of staff throughout the hospital, we know we can save even more lives."