Transplant Coordinator in Organ Donation

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Transplant Coordinator in Organ Donation

What is the Role of a Transplant Coordinator in Organ Donation?

April 30, 2024
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The transplant coordinator in organ donation plays a crucial role in patient care during the entirety of the transplant process including pre-transplant evaluation, waitlist management, transplant admission, and discharge/post-transplant follow-up.

These crucial functions are dependent upon the organization, critical thinking capabilities, recent research, and the adept utilization of evidence-based practices. The role of transplant coordinator demands exceptional interpersonal skills to effectively collaborate with patients, their families, support systems, members of the transplant team, and referring providers.

There are two types of transplant coordinators: procurement coordinators and clinical transplant coordinators. Both clinical and procurement coordinators are actively involved in planning, evaluating, and maintaining records, but the most important part of their job is supporting individuals and families.

Let’s embark on a journey to learn about organ donation and the role of the transplant coordinator, from the initial process of evaluation to the delicate post-transplant care or surgery.

What is an Organ Donation?

Organ donation is a surgical process in which a failing organ is replaced with a healthy one from a donor who no longer needs it. Typically, organ donors are people who have recently volunteered before their declaration of death to donate organs afterward, or their family or close relatives decide on their behalf. This process is human compassion and has a crucial impact on patient care and survival. For those people/patients who are suffering from organ failure have a second chance at life, from organ donors as a selfless act. Behind this process, there’s a well-coordinated complex network between the transplant team to ensure the ethical and safe transfer of organs from donor to recipient.

The receiver will be a patient who is suffering from organ failure and will not be able to live without an organ transplant, this organ recovery process is referred to as retrieval.

Health care providers must collaborate with the medical team to recover, and preserve, organs and tissue donation from both living donors or after the donor’s death. Health care provider needs to educate the concerned families about myths and concerns surrounding the organ donation process which can help increase the number of donor organs due to which fewer patients will die from a lack of organ or tissue donor.

What is the Process for Organ Donation?

It is an act of selflessness, offering a new gift of life for patients battling with organ failure. It starts with the decision made by their family and donor to donate organs. This process includes the most important aspect which is the consent of the organ donor for transplant coordinator.

This complex process includes a professional or dedicated team of experts or healthcare professionals working to ensure the ethical transfer of organs from organ donors to compatible organ recipients. The transplant coordinator explains the whole process and benefits of organ donation to the families and ensures all legal formalities are done once the decision is made, after the transplant coordinator steps in to facilitate the organ transfer process.

Transplant coordinators play a crucial role in coordinating with various stakeholders, and medical professionals, including the donor’s family, transplant centers, and potential recipient. The process of organ donation is regulated in India by the Transplantation of Human Organs & Tissues Act which is divided into two categories.

1.Organ donation in India after death (Brain death organ donation)

For deceased donors, the process of organ donation starts with evaluating the donor’s condition to make it a favorable environment for organ donation which includes factors i.e. stabilizing the arterial blood pressure, and cardiac output by providing ventilatory support.

When the donor’s death is confirmed using either circulatory or neurological criteria, the family is approached after the following confirmation to obtain legal consent to discontinue life support from the patient. This process of organ and tissue procurement procedures is done carefully because inflammatory mediators enter the solid organs after death, which increases the organs’ immunogenicity.

When a potential donor is near death or has already passed away then the organ procurement coordinator is informed by notification which contains detailed information about patient-related data i.e. medical history, age, cause or expected cause of death, family contact information, and other relevant data.

The organ procurement organization responsibilities during the process proceed to:

  • Schedule additional examinations if deemed necessary.
  • Check for prior consent for the donation process from the patient or presence in the state or central donor registries. If the patient is unavailable, seek authorization from their blood relatives, like spouses, children, parents, or legal guardians.
  • Ensure the patient remains on artificial life support until authorization is obtained.
  • Connect with the state organ transplant center to initiate a search for matching recipients.
  • Receive recipient evaluation list generated by the state organ transplant center based on factors like tissue type, height, blood sample for blood type, weight, distance, waiting time, and disease severity.
  • Contact potential recipients based on the provided list.
  • The transplant surgeon makes the final decision based on the recipient’s health, organ suitability, and availability of local recipients.
  • Coordinate consent process and organ matching for the receiving (recipients).
  • Transport the donor’s body to the mortuary, placing saline-soaked gauze over the eyes until harvesting is complete.
  • Conduct organ removal by surgeons following standard surgical procedures which include incisions in a sterile operative platform.
  • Preferentially procure heart and lungs followed by liver, pancreas, and kidneys.
  • Store procured organs in a cooling environment at 4 degrees Celsius to mitigate damage from blood flow restriction, although this doesn’t halt all cellular processes.
  • Store immediately removed organs in a sterile container filled with icy slush to prevent freezing during transport.
  • Surgically close open incisions.
  • Arrange rapid transport to the receipt center as organs and tissues lose viability quickly.

2.The living organ donation process includes two main categories for living organ donors: 

  • Non-relatives and close relatives:
    • The candidates for donation are typically genetically related to the recipient and are above 18 years old. Examples include sons, daughters, parents, siblings, grandparents, or grandchildren.
    • Organs can be procured after their clinical brain death diagnosis or with approval from the authorization committee.
  • Unrelated Donors for Social Welfare:
    • These donors donate for social welfare purposes and may not have a genetic relationship with the recipient in which the social worker plays a crucial role in this process.
    • Organ procurement can occur after their clinical brain death identification or with approval from the authorization committee.

The organ transplant process is a comprehensive review that is registered by a healthcare provider or medical professional and the administrative department of the transplant institution. The final approval is granted by the authorization committee.

What is the role of the transplant coordinator? 

  1. Organ transplant coordinator is a multifaceted role which crucial for successful coordination between organ procurement and the transplant process. Deceased organ donation includes a close-knit network with many medical, paramedical, and non-paramedical personnel, with transplant coordinators. These transplant coordinators also known as procurement transplant coordinators or organ donor coordinators, are in this process.
  2. Organ donors are summoned when a potential organ donor meets specific criteria for donor allocation, such as severe neurological injury which leads to brain death determination. The transplant coordinator will review the donor’s medical records to start the process of placing organs with recipients if the donor is deemed suitable.
  3. The transplant coordinators manage the medical management to ensure the stability of the donor’s organ for transplantation. These donor coordinators are responsible for coordinating diagnostic tests which include blood tests for the donor’s blood typing and collaborate with providers to facilitate organ recovery for transplantation.
  4. The organ donation process and transplant programs’ success depend upon effective coordination with trained transplant coordinators.
  5. Transplant coordinators also provide support and counseling to donor families of brain-dead donors and encourage a positive environment for organ donation.
  6. After completing the process transplant coordinator helps in building strong relationships with both medical and non-medical communities, as well as families of deceased donors.
  7. Recipient transplant coordinators focus on educating patients about preparing for an organ transplant and post-transplant care of patients, to ensure the optimal outcomes for recipients.

What is the importance of a transplant coordinator?

The transplant coordinators help to identify the entire donation process from the brain death of a patient to the field of organ transplantation, which includes some important key responsibilities of a transplant coordinator:

  1. In the organ donation process transplant coordinators work closely with organ procurement organizations, transplant centers, and transplant hospitals to find potential organ donors, which also assess the donor suitability and coordinate the organ donation process from start to end.
  2. The role of transplant coordinators involves a complex structure, they are responsible for determining the potential organ donors after donor evaluation and help in clinical management or conventional management. It involves the process of assessing the organ functions and viability of medical history by gathering data, conducting physical examinations, or coordinating diagnostic tests to manage potential donors in intensive care units for optimal medical support and management.
  3. The process of organ donation includes a very crucial point of consent and communication in which the transplant coordinator’s role is to provide cooperation between donor families and support to donors’ families for obtaining consent or explaining the donation process to them.
  4. The transplant coordinator’s role provide support to the recipient and their families after the transplant surgery. They also assist in post-care management and follow-up appointments to promote optimal outcomes and ensure the continuity of care.
  5. Education and advocacy are important parts of this process in which transplant coordinators educate healthcare professionals, the public, and donor families to raise awareness about organ transplantation.

Deceased Transplant Coordinator vs Recipient Transplant Coordinator

A transplant coordinator and a recipient transplant coordinator have their respective roles in the organ donation and transplantation process. A transplant coordinator is also known as a deceased transplant coordinator; the primary role is to assist in the organ donation process from deceased donors. They work closely with donor families, healthcare professionals, and transplant teams to coordinate with organ procurement process, ensure patient suitability, and manage organ recovery and transportation.

Whereas a recipient transplant coordinator’s role is to coordinate care for the transplant recipient. They provide education to patients about the transplant process, coordinate with patients for transplant surgery, and provide support and post-transplant care.

Recipient transplant coordinators work with transplant teams, to ensure that recipients receive the necessary medical attention and follow-up care to optimize their outcomes after transplantation.

Important key points to be noted:

  • A national system ensures fair distribution of donated organs based on medical needs and the medical urgency of the recipient’s condition. The procedure of organ allocation is followed by several factors, including the duration of time patients have spent on the organ transplant waiting list and the severity of their illness. This approach offers a chance for critically ill patients to survive so that life-saving organs reach those who need them the most.
  • Between retrieval and transplantation, donated organs have a limited life span for viability. There are organ preservation techniques that maximize the life span of these organs after donation.

To learn more about continuous improvement in the field of critical care enroll in an Online Organ Donation Course.

Checklist for a Critical Care student to have a comprehensive understanding of the condition:

  • Orientation to the Course: Organ Donation Simplified
  • Defining Brain Death & THOA Law
  • Selection of Cadaver Donor
  • Brain Death Testing- How I Do It
  • Concept of Brain Stem Death and Brain Stem Death Testing
  • Medico-Legal Aspects of Cadaver Organ Donation
  • Caveats in Brain Death
  • Donor Optimization
  • Ancillary Tests in Brain Death
  • Role of the Transplant Coordinator in Organ Donation

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs):

Q1. What’s the main barrier to organ donation?

Ans. Lack of open communication and public awareness. Many people don’t understand the process or feel uncomfortable discussing death.

Q2. What is the process of organ donation work in India?

Ans. Family consent is required to register as a donor after brain death. Organs are evaluated, matched with compatible recipients, retrieved, transplanted, and followed by aftercare for both the recipient and donor family.

Q3. What is the salary of the transplant coordinator in India?

Ans. In India transplant coordinator’s salary varies between Rs 0.9 Lakhs to Rs 9.0 Lakhs with less than 1 year of experience to 12 years, the average annual salary stands at Rs4.1 Lakhs.