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A Community of Compassion: Nurses Play Key Role in Eye Donation

A Community of Compassion: Nurses Play Key Role in Eye Donation

This Eye Donation Month, we are celebrating our “Community of Compassion,” which is comprised of all who are driven by collective passion to restore sight. A critical role within this community – that is too often overlooked – are the nurses who work tirelessly to provide compassionate, quality care to their patients. Their remarkable work extends even after a patient’s death, when they help facilitate organ, eye, and tissue donation to honor their patients’ wish to enhance or save a life.

“The dedication and diligence of our partner hospital nurses is unparalleled,” said Troy Win’E, Senior Director of Recovery Services and Partner Relations at SightLife. “They selflessly go beyond their call of duty to make cornea donation possible, providing not only hope and healing for donor families, but also joy and possibility for the individuals who receive the gift of sight through corneal transplantation.”

In 1998, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services federally mandated that every death at every hospital across the country must be reported to an Organ Procurement Organization (OPO)  in a timely manner to preserve the option of organ, tissue and cornea donation – a policy that has eliminated the waiting list for a corneal transplant in the U.S. In fact, this gold standard – requiring mandatory death notification – is at the core of our international policy work.  

In addition to their enormous responsibility of providing quality patient care, nurses must also file these death notifications and when Electronic Medical Record (EMR) access is unavailable, they take part in a thorough referral process with a SightLife Transplant Donor Coordinator who is available 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

Together in consultation with SightLife’s Medical Review team, they review a patient’s admission, medical history, and suitability for donation. This process can take upwards of 25 minutes but is essential to a successful donation process.  

“I appreciate SightLife’s commitment to excellence in cornea recovery and quality transplantable tissue,” said Ellen “Penny” Clifton of St. Vincent Healthcare in Billings, Montana. “Knowing that the donors and their families are treated with the respect and sensitivity they deserve makes the donation process worth it.”

Even after the referral process, SightLife continues to work with the nurses, who help coordinate the final cornea recovery by a trained SightLife Eye Recovery Technician. The coordination process is a critical piece of the puzzle because recovery should ideally occur within 12 hours of death, and no later than 24 hours after death.

The work has its challenges, but any draw deep meaning from the potential to restore a person’s sight, says Anita Baldoni, a nurse at Geisinger Health System in Pennsylvania. “As a donor, a person has the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about my donors and their families and how grateful I am for their kindness. Without the generosity of corneal donors, this gift of sight would not be possible for me.”

SightLife’s work as stewards of the gift of sight would not be possible without our extraordinary hospital partners, especially the nurses and supporting hospital staff who set the stage with donor families and stay committed to the time-consuming donation process. We extend our sincerest gratitude to them for being a part of our Community of Compassion and helping countless individuals around the world see the world through new eyes.