JOURNAL ARTICLE

Trauma and tribulation: the experiences and attitudes of operating room nurses working with organ donors

Cheryl Regehr, Maria Kjerulf, Svetlana R Popova, Andrew J Baker
Journal of Clinical Nursing 2004, 13 (4): 430-7
15086629

BACKGROUND: In the past two decades, significant medical advances have resulted in remarkable success and survival rates for organ recipients. However, the rates of donation have not kept pace with the demand, resulting in a critical shortage of available healthy organs. It has been suggested that the attitudes of medical personnel towards organ retrieval is a key success factor in improving organ donation. Yet there is evidence that those closest to the process of procurement are the most negative.

AIMS AND OBJECTIVES: This study sought to examine the attitudes towards organ donation of operating room nurses and their experiences of participating in the procurement of organs for transplant, in order to unravel factors that contribute to their attitudes.

METHODS: This study relied upon in-depth qualitative interviews with 14 operating room nurses who participated in organ procurement in a large urban trauma centre.

RESULTS: The results of this study suggest that the process of organ procurement is highly stressful and raises many concerns for operating room nurses. Factors, which added to participants' distress, include organizational factors such as strained relationships within surgical teams, concerns about the dignity of the patient and the well-being of the family and exposure to death and trauma.

CONCLUSIONS: Experiences of nurses participating in surgical removal of organs for transplantation resulted in personal feelings of distress and negative attitudes to the issue of organ donation which may be transmitted to others and undermine organ procurement efforts.

RELEVANCE TO CLINICAL PRACTICE: The concerns of these vital members of the organ procurement team should be heeded and actions taken to reduce their distress and improve their attitudes towards donation.

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