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Change of focus: from intensive care towards organ donation

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To progress from identifying a potential organ donor to implementing the actual organ donation effectively is a challenging process for all involved. The nurses might find the change of focus difficult, as the donor organ acquisition process often starts before the relatives had been informed and have had the time to reorient themselves about the severe situation of the patient and have been briefed on the option of organ donation. The purpose was to investigate the hospital-based education in organ donation at the 28 Norwegian donor hospitals, and elicit the needs of the intensive care nurses for imparting of required knowledge and support in shifting their focus from intensive care towards the process of organ procurement. Hospital-based education and guidelines in organ donation were analyzed by scrutinizing the documents available. Eleven units were found to have their own guidelines and only three hospitals had organ donation in their educational programme. Intensive care nurses at three hospitals participated in focus groups. The main finding was the need for collaboration and mutual understanding within the treatment team. Nurses expounded the multiple responsibilities that they discharged during the course of intensive care. In reorienting their focus from intensive care to donor organ procurement, the time of death was explained as the crucial turning point. The knowledge of intensive care staff and professional competence were crucial in winning the relatives’ trust and were central in the communication processes. Donor hospitals should implement systematic training and debriefing, where both nurses and physicians contribute to this process. Well-prepared protocols for organ donation at hospitals can define responsibilities assigned to different members of the donor organ acquisition team.

Keywords: donor management; intensive care; organ procurement; practice guidelines; professional competence; teamwork

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1:  Surgical Department, Rikshospitalet Medical Centre, Oslo, Norway 2:  Centre for Shared Decision Making and Nursing Research, Rikshospitalet Medical Centre, Oslo, and Institute of Nursing and Health Sciences, University of Oslo, Blindern, Oslo, Norway

Publication date: 2008-02-01

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