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VUMC a national leader in organ, tissue donations

Feb. 9, 2022, 3:03 PM


by Matt Batcheldor

A total of 109 people gave the gift of life as deceased organ donors at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in 2021, resulting in saving 280 lives, more than any other year, according to Tennessee Donor Services (TDS). More patients generously gave their gift of organs at Vanderbilt last year than any other single hospital in the United States.

A total of 203 people were tissue donors, enhancing the lives of 3,165 people, reported TDS, the federally designated donor network that facilitates organ and tissue donation in the region.

“Our transplant programs are entirely dependent on the generosity of the donors and donor families who, in time of great sorrow, turn their attention to helping others,” said Seth Karp, MD, H. William Scott Jr. Professor, chair of the Section of Surgical Sciences and director of the Vanderbilt Transplant Center. “We are grateful to live in and support such a compassionate community.”

The remarkable year was the result of the selfless generosity of Vanderbilt patients, the Medical Center’s deeply embedded culture of championing organ donation and its close partnership with TDS, said Teresa Hobt-Bingham, MSN, RN, associate nursing officer of the Nursing Surgical Patient Care Center.

“Our community at Vanderbilt supports donation at every level,” Hobt-Bingham said. “It’s really the culture at Vanderbilt — this is what we do, this is what we believe. We try to give families the room and support needed to process what they are facing, while showing them love and compassion when they make those hard decisions.”

Hobt-Bingham said donation is a very coordinated effort built into Vanderbilt’s organizational structure.

It involves multiple specialties, from nurses to operating room staff, physicians and anesthesia teams, caregivers to TDS liaisons. “It takes the entire community,” she said.

Hobt-Bingham chairs the Medical Center’s Organ Donation Committee, a multidisciplinary group of engaged providers, pharmacists, managers and nursing providers. The committee meets monthly to review metrics and data and identify areas for improvement.

VUMC also has an active Donation Nurse Champion Committee, including bedside nurses who share the common goal of increasing awareness about donation by helping identify patients who could potentially be donors, and working with TDS liaisons and VUMC providers to plan end-of-life conversations with families.

“Our bedside nurses in our ICUs are very engaged in this work,” Hobt-Bingham said. “They are huge promoters of organ donation and feel very strongly that is their mission and their vision when death is imminent.”

In recent years, Vanderbilt has honored patients who give their organs with an Honor Walk, where dozens of medical professionals line the halls as the patient, at the end of life, is taken to the operating room to give their gifts of life.

“Our doctors fight until the end to save our patients,” Hobt-Bingham said. “We are taking care of the patient and the family to make sure that we do our best to honor them throughout their hospital stay. If the family chooses to give the gift of life, we work with our teams to honor their wish. As a donor hospital, our care is always about the patient and the family.”

The longstanding relationship between Vanderbilt and TDS, which has two staff members dedicated to VUMC, reinforces the culture of donation.

“Tennessee Donor Services is thrilled to share this remarkable accomplishment with Vanderbilt University Medical Center,” said Jill Grandas, executive director of TDS. “Our strong partnership over many years has cultivated a culture dedicated to organ donation, resulting in caring service to donor families and life-saving transplants to thousands of patients waiting. We are grateful to the VUMC leadership and staff, particularly the critical care teams and Vanderbilt Transplant Center for their constant support and for sharing in our mission.”

To learn more about becoming an organ and tissue donor, visit Tennessee drivers can also choose to become an organ donor on their driver’s license applications. Donors are encouraged to share their decisions with their families.

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