BACKGROUND: More than 750,000 people die of sudden death each year, and many are potential non-heart-beating donors (NHBDs) for lung transplant. Although critical, the role of emergency medical services (EMS) personnel in assisting with recovery of NHBD lungs has not been studied. The purpose of this study was to assess knowledge of and attitudes about NHBDs among EMS personnel, evaluate the extent to which knowledge and personal experience with organ donation is associated with attitude, and ascertain the effectiveness of an intervention designed to teach EMS professionals about NHBDs. METHODS: EMS professionals (n = 361) completed measures of knowledge of and attitudes about NHBDs and then watched a presentation by a transplant doctor about traditional organ donation, NHBDs, and transplantation. Participants were able to ask questions during and after the presentation. Participants completed the measures again 3 months later. RESULTS: EMS professionals had a high rate of personal experience with organ donation and positive attitudes toward traditional organ donation. However, they showed lack of knowledge about NHBDs and felt less skilled in being part of the NHBD process, consistent with knowledge scores. The educational intervention was somewhat effective in improving knowledge about NHBDs. Scores improved significantly on 5 of 13 items. CONCLUSIONS: Lung recovery from NHBDs offers the potential of a very large supply for transplantation. This research suggests that with additional training, EMS professionals may be willing to be part of a NHBD recovery team
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