this study aimed at describing nurse's activities in the assistance for the physiological maintenance of potential organ donors. this is a non-structured bibliographic review that considered current publications having as basis the publications of the brazilian organ transplant association and of the brazilian intensive medicine association. results are organized according to the following structure: ethical issues related to organ and tissue removal, physiological repercussions of brain death (bd), clinical and technological signs of bd, and nursing assistance in the physiological maintenance of potential organ donors. it was concluded that it is essential for the nurse to have enough knowledge about possible physiological alterations resulting from bd. when that knowledge is put into practice, nurse's role will contribute for changes in transplants scenario.