Southeast Missouri State University's partnership with Mid-America Transplant has been beneficial for a multitude of reasons, but one of the best things to come out of it has been the specialized nursing curriculum.

How it started

In 2017, Mid-America Transplant was searching for a partnership with a higher education institution. Meanwhile, Southeast's Dr. Linda Heitman was noticing a deficit in nursing curriculum across the nation. Heitman was a professor of nursing who had always had an interest in organ donation and transplant, and she felt the undergraduate education on the topic just was not up to par. 

She collaborated with Dr. Pam Vargas to work on writing the grant, and that grant was accepted by Mid-America Transplant. The premise was simple: create an online course that could be incorporated into undergraduate nursing curriculum that went into the specifics of the organ donation process, including:

  • Overview of Organ Donation
  • Nurse's Role in Organ and Tissue Donation
  • Family Bereavement and Aftercare

These modules cover a variety of topics with videos from Mid-America doctors and nurses, speaking on brain death determination, bereavement, recovery and processing of organs, and the multifaceted roles the nurse plays throughout the process. 

The next step was creating the course. 

"You can have content, but you have to be able to deliver that content," Heitman said.

That's where Dr. Floyd Lockheart stepped in. Lockheart is the director of Academic Technologies at Southeast, and serves as technology education coordinator for Mid-America Transplant. Lockheart spearheaded the IT side of things when it came to the online platform, creating the final product that students see today. 

"I was a part of the group of people who originally introduced computer aided instruction and the Internet-based classes to the University. In 1996, we were the first ones," Lockheart said. "I was the guy in the concrete room who figured out how to get from point A to point B. Dr. Heitman came to me and said: Floyd, I've got something exciting we need to do, and we need to get together."

After a year and a half of writing and developing from the IT side of things, the program was ready to launch. Southeast ran a pilot with 24 students enrolled in Intro to Critical Care. 

Since then

Immediately after the launch of the program, Dr. Heitman saw the effects it was having directly on her Southeast nursing students. She was running a student clinical, and came across a situation where the organ donation discussion could take place. When she pulled the student nurse aside to discuss it, the student had the knowledge needed to speak about the details of the situation and told Dr. Heitman she was pulling information from the online course. 

"That was when I first realized that it was making an impact on students and that we were getting somewhere," Heitman said. "There's an enormous amount of content to teach an undergraduate nursing student. This is a tiny fraction, but it's an important piece of it, particularly if you're on the receiving end."

After the 24 took the pilot program, it took off. This semester, over 1,000 students from 12 different institutions are slated to take the online course. 

"This has by far been one of the more successful elements of this," Lockheart said. "Not only did it go beyond our University, but it has knitted such broad support from everyone involved and developed such interest in people."

Because of the way the online platform is set up, there are also new insights the creators are gathering. For example, the platform keeps students and teachers completely anonymous. This has allowed students to open up and share more about their personal experiences and thoughts on the organ donation process. It's also helped gather information on why students choose nursing as a career, and studying/research habits among undergraduates. 

The hope is that it continues to make an impact on undergraduate nursing education. 

"We continually evaluate it year to year for all things that are happening new and exciting in this specialty," Heitman said. "There's going to be a lot of change in the future. We have some adapting to do, but we're looking forward to it."


"It's great to see every day what specifically your work does to impact the lives of others. You get tangible evidence of that. It's really fulfilling to see the connection between Mid-America transplant and SEMO."

Coby O'Sullivan, Quality Compliance Coordinator at Mid-America Transplant, SEMO Graduate 2006

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