Mak­ing work life-af­firm­ing

Louisiana Or­gan Pro­cure­ment Agency fosters ‘pos­i­tiv­ity’

Modern Healthcare - - BEST PLACES TO WORK - By Mike Mitka Mike Mitka is a free­lance writer based in River For­est, Ill.

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.”

One team dressed as wrestlers and another paid homage to Robert Palmer videos for an ’80s-themed Skills Day party.

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