Pediatric critical care nurses' perceptions, knowledge, and attitudes regarding organ donation after cardiac death*


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Abstract

Objective:Donation after cardiac death (DCD) is being implemented nationwide in the United States to increase the number of organ donors. Pediatric critical care nurses (PCRNs) are key facilitators in the organ donation process. This study assesses their perception, level of knowledge, and understanding of DCD and the effect of an educational intervention.Design:Anonymous questionnaire administered before and after an educational intervention.Setting:Children's hospital with 39 pediatric and cardiac/transplant intensive care unit beds.Subjects:PCRNs in these intensive care units.Interventions:DCD education.Measurements and Main Results:Response to the initial questionnaire was 93 of 123 (76%): 63% of PCRNs supported organ donation, 69% felt it gives meaning and worth to death, and 76% felt that it contributes positively to the donating family's grieving process. Ninety-five percent agreed that DCD patients have a right to pain medications, and 92% supported such medications even if they hasten death. However, 11% feared that the DCD donor feels pain and suffering. Fourteen percent felt that a 5-min observation period after asystole is insufficient to pronounce death, and 8% feared legal repercussions. PCRNs scored lower on questions assessing their knowledge (p < .01), their comfort answering family questions (p < .05), and their comfort in calling the organ procurement agency about DCD donors compared with similar questions about brain-dead donors. One month after 104 PCRNs attended the educational intervention, 64 (62%) completed a follow-up survey. Correct identification of the DCD process improved from 20% to 79%. Confidence with knowledge, comfort answering family questions, and comfort in calling the organ procurement agency about DCD donors improved by 41%, 25%, and 18%, respectively.Conclusions:PCRNs are generally supportive of organ donation but have a self-perceived and objectively identified knowledge deficit regarding DCD, resulting in their being unprepared to identify potential DCD donors or handle family questions. A simple educational intervention can improve PCRNs' knowledge of the DCD process and their confidence and comfort with this process. As DCD policies are implemented, specific interventions should target these key members of the intensive care unit team.

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