The Collaborative Approach to Donation

A shared commitment works best for all stake holders involved in the care of patients and their grieving families.

By Stacey Caruthers | January 23, 2020

Many years working on the front lines of family care have enabled me to recognize the importance of the collaborative approach to comprehensive end-of-life care, which, in many cases, includes donation. Because the ultimate goal is a supportive environment when making end-of-life decisions, a shared commitment works best for all stake holders involved in the care of patients and their grieving families.

As a former Manager of Family Services, I’ve heard many OPO colleagues discuss the challenges often encountered during donation cases. Many hospital partners also shared with me the challenges they were presented with during a potential donor case. After comparing the two group’s perceptions, it became evident that there was ample opportunity for stronger and clearer collaboration between both sides, and that the challenges both groups expressed were most often the result of communications breakdowns.


A good starting point for consistent collaboration should be an effective huddle between the OPO and hospital team as soon as the patient meets clinical triggers, repeated as often as needed to assure that all parties are on the same page. The huddle should be comprised of those involved in the care of the patient, including the physician, nurse, chaplain, social worker and members of the palliative care team. Showing discipline to this best practice can provide our hospital partners with a clearer picture of our activities and limit confusion on potential donor cases which leads to optimal care for the family.

By removing the old mindset of working in silos, we can foster stronger relationships that will benefit everyone. We will also create an environment that will allow us to make full use of our hospital partner’s expertise while building trust so they will do the same in return.                        

Stacey Photo

Stacey Caruthers has spent the last 20+ years of her professional career helping to advance organ and tissue donation. She was most recently with Indiana Donor Network (formerly Indiana Organ Procurement), serving as both Manager of Family Services and as a Family Services Coordinator.

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