Making work life-affirming
Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency fosters ‘positivity’
Although they work on a daily basis with dying patients and their grieving families, employees with the Louisiana Organ Procurement Agency consider their work to be life-affirming. Established in 1988, LOPA, based in Metairie, is an independent, not-for profit organ and tissue recovery agency with 141 employees designated by the CMS as the organ procurement organization serving all of Louisiana.
On an annual basis, LOPA recovers about 525 organs from about 155 donor patients considered brain dead at the time of recovery. LOPA averages about 255 tissue donors annually. The agency also houses and maintains the Louisiana Donor Registry.
Chrissy Hagan, LOPA’s chief administrative officer, said working for the agency has been a rewarding experience. “Our core purpose is to make life happen,” said Hagan, who has been with the organization for more than 10 years. “We like to make sure we maintain a culture of positivity and let our people know about the difference they’re making in the world.”
And while organ procurement is the top priority at LOPA, the agency also ensures its staff is satisfied with its work environment. The organization, whose employees are 74% female and its executive team 50% female, reports that 30% of full-time salaried positions are filled internally and only 4% of staff voluntarily leave on an annual basis.
Jackie Rallis, who works in the finance department after being hired by LOPA three years ago, said she plans on being there long term. “I wake up every day happy and excited to go into work because they truly care about their employees, and they make it so we have a proper balance between work and home,” she said. “It makes us want to give even more to the organization and our community.”
LOPA has earned the top spot on the ranking of the Best Places to Work for midsized supply companies, those with 100 to 999 employees. The organization is No. 4 among all midsized employers and No. 8 overall among all 100 of the Best Places to Work. It’s the third time the company has been named one of the Best Places to Work.
Working at LOPA also has had an impact on Rallis’ personal life. She urges friends to sign organ donor cards, and it has helped her family prioritize what’s truly important.
“I have three children, and sometimes they have meltdowns and think life as they know it is over,” she said. “And sometimes I’ll mention that I met an organ recipient that day, and I’ll tell them that person’s story, and it really puts things into perspective for them, too.”
LOPA encourages organ recipients and donor family members to visit the agency to share their stories. Hagan said such stories are particularly important for those staff members in the critical support center who take calls all day and answer questions from and help guide grieving families.
“They are talking to these families who are devastated on the worst day of their lives,” Hagan said. “So we like to have donor families come in, and they’ll talk about the closure that was presented to them with the opportunity for donation.”
Hagan recalled a time early in her career at LOPA, hearing a talk from a recipient of a heart transplant who had waited a long time for the organ.
A LOPA staff member approached the speaker and put a stethoscope over the woman’s heart, turned to those in the room and said, “You guys, I hear my son’s heart beating.”
Hagan recalled having met the staff worker before, but she just thought of her as someone employed at LOPA. “I didn’t know that her 15-year-old fell out of a pickup truck and saved five lives,” said Hagan, who was fighting back tears. “And I thought to myself, this is what I was born to do.”
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