Study objective: To determine whether an intensive educational campaign of emergency department personnel on the organ donor and procurement process would result in both increased organ donor referrals and organs procured.
Methods: A retrospective review of the performance of an urban teaching ED in identifying and referring potential organ donor candidates was performed. Subsequently an intensive educational campaign of all ED staff, in conjunction with the Regional Organ Procurement Agency of Southern California (ROPA), was initiated. Physicians and nurses were educated about the procurement process, and a ROPA representative was on call 24 hours a day to assist in this process. The need for aggressive resuscitation and vital sign maintenance in potential donors as a strategy to promote organ recovery was emphasized. Reeducation by ROPA occurred every 2 to 3 months. The identification and referral rates were then retrospectively reviewed to evaluate any improvement.
Results: In 1994 the initial referral rate of potential organ donors from the ED was 30% (3 of 10) resulting in no organs procured. After the intervention the referral rate increased to 100% (25 of 25) in 1995 (P < .0001). The number of actual donors procured was 0 in 1994, 5 in 1995, and 9 in 1996. The increased ED referrals resulted in 14 and 32 organs procured in 1995 and 1996, respectively.
Conclusion: Emergency physicians are in a unique position as first caregivers to interact with both potential donors and their families. With intensive education of ED staff, proper identification and referral, as well as timely intervention by organ procurement representatives, the consent and donation rate of organs for transplantation can be increased and maintained.