Organ donation program recognized by national collaborative

July 1, 1993

OSF Saint Anthony Medical Center has been recognized by the Department of Health and Human Services for its successful efforts to increase organ donation rates. In the course of one year, the percentage of eligible donors whose family consented to organ donation climbed from 50 to 77 percent.

One of today’s most pressing public health issues is the widening gap between the supply and demand for organs and tissue. More than 83,000 people are currently waiting for an organ transplant. The United States is far from maximizing its supply of available organs from deceased donors. In 2002, only 6,617 (about 46 percent) of an estimated 14,000 potential donors donated organs. As a result, about 17 people on the transplantation waiting list die each day.

OSF Saint Anthony is the only Rockford hospital participating in the Organ Donation Breakthrough Collaborative, which was launched in April 2003 to spread proven best practices and achieve organ donation rates of 75 percent or higher at the country’s 300 largest hospitals. Brandie Messer, RN, director of the Illinois Neurosciences Institute and orthopedic services, accepted the commendation at a recent San Diego meeting of representatives of medical centers participating in the collaborative. The organ donation program at OSF Saint Anthony works through the University of Wisconsin at Madison, which encouraged the medical center’s participation in the collaborative.

Messer is part of a group of OSF Saint Anthony staff members who has participated in four meetings of the Collaborative since September 2003. The meetings bring together experts from across the country to share and spread proven ways to speed increases in organ donation.

“We have been able to learn what we were doing right and identified ways to improve,” said Messer. “Today, we are one of a few medical centers in the country where physicians or specially trained nurses approach family members of potential donors. We are especially fortunate to have physicians such as neurosurgeon Dr. Todd Alexander and trauma surgeon Dr. Edward Pyun and pulmonologist Dr. John Butler. They take a highly personal interest in organ donation.”

Messer said steps have been taken such as including a question on admission forms inquiring whether patients wish to be an organ donor, training every nurse in the medical center to approach family members of a potential donor, creating monthly report cards to track rates of donation, and placing a card on clipboards in critical care units to remind staff of the clinical criteria used to determine which families should be approached.

“It’s a part of the culture here,” said Messer. “From personal experience, I can say that organ donation helps you feel like something good has come from the death of a family member.”

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