Developing online communication training to request donation for vascularized composite allotransplantation (VCA): improving performance to match new US organ donation targets

Laura A. Siminoff, Gerard P. Alolod, Hayley McGregor, Richard D. Hasz, Patricia A. Mulvania, Laura K. Barker, Heather M. Gardiner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Approaching families of dying or newly deceased patients to donate organs requires specialized knowledge and a mastery of relational communication. As the transplantation field has progressed, Donation Professionals (DPs) are also leading conversations with family decision makers (FDMs) about the donation of uncommon anatomical gifts, such as face, hands, genitalia, referred to as Vascularized Composite Allotransplants (VCA) without much training or experience. To address the need for training, we adapted and beta tested an evidenced-based communication training program for donation discussions to VCA requests. The overarching goal of Communicating Effectively about Donation for Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation (CEaD-VCA) is to increase the number of VCA authorizations and to improve the socioemotional outcomes of FDMs. Methods: We developed CEaD-VCA, an online, on-demand training program based on the previously tested, evidenced-based communication skills training program designed to train DPs to have conversations about solid organ donation. The training was modified utilizing data from a national telephone survey with DPs and results of 6 focus groups conducted with members of the general public. The survey and focus groups assessed knowledge, attitudes, and barriers to VCA donation. The training was shaped by a partnership with a leading industry partner, the Gift of Life Institute.™ Results: Using the results as a guide, the existing CEaD training program, consisting of interactive eLearning modules, was adapted to include technical information about VCA, foundational communication skills, and two interactive example VCA donation request scenarios to facilitate active learning. Forty-two DPs from two partner Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs) participated in the beta test of CEaD-VCA. Pre- and post-test surveys assessed the impact of the training. Conclusions: The training was scored highly by DPs in effectiveness and ease of use. This project created a standardized, accessible, and comprehensive training for DPs to communicate about VCA donation. CEaD-VCA is an example of how to develop a communication skills training for difficult conversations utilizing input from stakeholders, guided by communication theory. It also demonstrates how gaps in communication skills during medical education can be filled utilizing advanced online Learning Management Systems. The training specifically addresses new CMS rules concerning OPO performance metrics.

Original languageEnglish
Article number77
Pages (from-to)77
JournalBMC Medical Education
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024


  • Benchmarking
  • Communication
  • Education, Medical
  • Humans
  • Tissue and Organ Procurement
  • Vascularized Composite Allotransplantation


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