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Nursing students learn ethics, process of organ donation

Mar 17, 2022
Five people stand by a screen with the Indiana Donor Network logo on it
Five people stand by a screen with the Indiana Donor Network logo on it

KOKOMO, Ind. – More than 100,000 men, women, and children in the United States are waiting for an organ transplant , and 10 percent of that represents those residing in Indiana.

Students in one Indiana University Kokomo nursing class learned what their role is in the organ donation process, in a presentation by Donate Life Indiana in their medical ethics class, where they learned one organ donor can save eight lives and heal 75 lives through tissue donation.

“It’s a great way to drive home what we’ve learned in our textbook,” said Leigh Swartzendruber, clinical assistant professor of nursing. “They learn how to do this the right way. These end-of-life discussions are already sensitive. They walk through the process of when to call, and how to monitor the steps, so they know what to do and are confident.”

Robert Horsey, in-house clinical coordinator for Donate Life Indiana, who is also a nurse, walked students through the medical conditions that should trigger them to call an organ procurement organization, and what information to have to make the call. He noted that the referral only means there is a potential the patient could be a donor.

“It does not mean you have given up hope for a positive outcome,” he said. “We’re rooting right alongside you for that patient to survive.”

However, he cautioned them not to be first to suggest organ donation to the patient’s family, because it erodes their confidence in their health care provider. Instead, Horsey said staff from the organ procurement organization can broach the subject.

Senior Malori Von Tobel has seen the process in action during one of her clinical experiences.

“With that, and talking to the patient’s nurse, it sparked an interest in organ donation in me,” she said. “As one life is coming to a close, it doesn’t have to be lost completely. Their spirit can live on through another person. It’s awesome to see how many lives can be saved by one person’s donation. I would think it would help with the grieving process for that person’s family, to know they are still living on in this way.”

She was glad to know her role is not asking a patient’s family about donation.

“It helps to understand the ethical side, and that another organization will handle this part, and help the family understand what is happening,” the Royal Center resident said. “It also gives them confidence that their doctors and nurses are doing their best to keep their loved one alive.”

Naomi Fakolade was astounded by the number of people nationwide waiting for donations — enough to fill Lucas Oil Stadium one and a half times.

“As a nurse, I can help teach others about the importance of organ donation,” said Fakolade, from Texas. “Organ and tissue donation is a way to help multiple people around the world or nation.”

Alex Flores was impressed by the aftercare provided to donor families, and by efforts Donate Life Indiana makes to honor donors.

“It shines a light on helping others,” he said. “It gives them the opportunity to live on and make an impact on a lot of people. That’s what just fascinated me.”

Swartzendruber said Donate Life Indiana staff visit her class every semester, to introduce organ donation to senior nursing students, and to prepare them for future experiences with organ donation in their clinical role.

In addition to Horsey, they included Corinne Osinski-Carey, community outreach coordinator and registry specialist, Lynn Gagel, legal affairs and outreach coordinator, and Rafael Aquilar, bilingual community outreach coordinator.

“This is such a great partnership,” Swartzendruber said. “They answer as many questions as my students have. It’s a great opportunity for them to ask anything, and hear from professionals working in the field.”

Education is KEY at Indiana University Kokomo.

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