The Waiting Room Challenge

Submitted by Stephanie Schindler, Y4 MD student

The Waiting Room Challenge features current information about organ donation for primary care patients waiting for their appointments

This year, BC Transplant celebrates its 50th anniversary and with it an incredible milestone of 5000 life-saving organ donations and transplants to date. Significant strides have been made towards increasing the number of organ donors with more than 1.35 million British Columbians currently registered, but the need for organ donors remains strong. After attending a presentation by an organ recipient at his local Rotary club in Sechelt, Dr. Paul Dhillon, a family physician, became inspired and created a local initiative to increase awareness about organ donation and boost recruitment. He reports “I was not aware of the changes in the registry, and then realized that we had a waiting room full of patients scrolling through pictures or messages on their phones. [I] saw the opportunity to have [patients] update their organ donation status right there in the office and then also have the ability to have any questions answered.”

While completing my four-week rural family medicine elective at the Cowrie Medical Clinic, I was introduced to the initiative by Dr. Dhillon and was excited to help. I would be responsible for analyzing the results and summarizing them into a poster presentation to be shared with our patients, colleagues and stakeholders.

In September, 2018, the waiting room of the Cowrie Medical Clinic was transformed into an organ donor registration site. An informational poster board was set-up to provide patients with an opportunity to familiarize themselves with the BC Transplant Registry and to sign-up as organ donors. The initiative was so successful, that in January 2019, the “Waiting Room Challenge,” as it was now known, was expanded to additional clinics along the Sunshine Coast – from Gibsons to Pender Harbour – as well as to clinics in North Vancouver to see who could spread the news about organ donation and increase the number of organ donor registrations in the BC Transplant registry. The communities certainly rose to the challenge! After I analyzed the results, we saw that the increased awareness around organ donation lead to an incredible 110 new organ donor registrations compared to the previous year. Among these new registrations were 31 new online registrations. “Since starting the program, it has been great and a real win-win-win all around” Dr. Dhillon is excited to report.

This initiative showcased the potential of a primary care clinic’s waiting room to play a role in the recruitment of future organ donors and, more importantly, to make the process  as easy as possible. This project could represent a step in the right direction to bridging the gap between the number of patients still waiting for organ transplants and the number of organ donors in this province. The results of the initiative will be presented at the Family Medicine Forum in Vancouver this October, and will hopefully inspire other medical clinics to take on the challenge, as well. So maybe next time you are sitting in a clinic’s waiting room, take a second and look around to see if you can spot one of the BC Transplant registry forms and join the thousands of British Columbians in helping to save a life by becoming a registered organ donor.

Dr. Paul Dhillon’s Waiting Room Challenge initiative is part of his rural research interests, which are supported by a Rural Physician Research Support Project grant offered by the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues and administered by the Rural Coordination Centre of BC.