Understanding The Donation Process

At NJ Sharing Network, we recognize that every organ and tissue donation involves the gift of a donor and his or her family, as well as the efforts of our professional partners.

We work closely with hospitals, medical examiners and funeral homes to realize our mutual goal of saving and enhancing lives through organ and tissue donation.

This section is intended to provide healthcare professionals with resource information to support them in their identification, referral and care of potential organ and tissue donors.

Steps In The Donation Process

  • Referral: Routine, timely referral of patients meeting clinical triggers ensures that every opportunity for donation is realized. 
  • Evaluation:  Our highly trained donation specialists conduct an evaluation of a patient’s medical history and current status to determine the patient’s ability to give the gift of organ and tissue donation.
  • Approach: Our families are supported as they grieve for their loved one who has died.  NJ Sharing Network staff, in partnership with hospital staff, will begin a caring, empathetic discussion with families about the opportunity for donation.  In circumstances where the patient has declared their wish to donate through their license or advance directive, NJ Sharing Network staff will gently guide the family through the process to honor that gift.
  • Management: Expertise and vigilant care is needed to ensure that as many recipients as possible are given a second chance of life through the decision to donate.  Resources from multiple hospital departments are utilized to honor the gift.  Recipients are identified and prepared for a life-saving transplant.
  • Recovery: Every donation is a gift.  Recovery of organ and tissue is done in the hospital operating room, under sterile conditions and with utmost respect for the selfless gift of life that is being offered.

The Nurse's Role in the Donation Process

The Impact

  • One organ donor can save 8 lives.
  • One tissue donor can restore health to over 75 others.
  • Nationwide 115,000 people are in need of a lifesaving transplant.
  • Donation is a unique and rare gift. Your support makes this life changing gift possible.

Saving Lives Through Organ Donation

Referral Triggers (call required within 1 hour)

Any ventilator dependent patient meeting one of the following triggers:

  • Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) of 5 or less
  • Loss of 2 or more neurological reflexes (i.e. no cough, no gag, no corneals, no response to pain, etc.)
  • Prior to extubation and beginning discussions of withdrawal and end of life

Approach Process

As per hospital policy and federal regulations, NJ Sharing Network is the trained Designated Requestor and must be present for any donation discussion. NJ Sharing Network will work closely with the healthcare team to plan for any approach.

Two Pathways: Organ Recovery

Donation after Brain Death: Testing includes a clinical examination, apnea test and confirmatory test. These patients remain on the ventilator while the identification of up to 8 recipients occurs. Reference your hospital’s policy for more information on NJ regulations pertaining to death by neurological criteria.

Donation after Cardiac Death (DCD) occurs after the decision for Palliative Extubation occurs. Withdrawal typically occurs in the operating room. If cardiac death occurs within 90 minutes vital organs can be recovered for transplant. NJ Sharing Network should be contacted if family meetings are occurring to discuss end of life decisions.

Healing Lives Through Tissue Donation

Tissue Referral Process

One tissue donor has the potential to enhance the lives of over 75 people. Every death must be referred within one hour to evaluate tissue donation options. A telephone screening to determine medical suitability will occur at the time of the referral. If the patient is a candidate, a copy of the chart may be requested to ensure transplant safety.

A hold will be placed on the body while NJ Sharing Network offers the family the opportunity to restore health, mobility and sight through bone, skin, heart valves and cornea donation.

NJ Sharing Network will initiate all donation discussions once medical suitability has been determined.

Family Support Services

Donor families are supported before, during and after the donation process. While on-site, families are offered a flag raising ceremony. A certificate is sent to the funeral home for display and a letter with information about who received their loved ones gifts is sent within a few weeks. NJ Sharing Network hosts many events throughout the year where donors are honored; 5K Celebration of Life, Remembrance Events, Quilt Unveilings and many more. The first name and last initial of every donor is displayed on our Wall of Remembrance at our headquarters for families to tour at any time.