What is a Transplant Nurse?

A transplant nurse, also known as an organ transplant nurse, is an RN that cares for patients who are undergoing an organ transplant procedure. Like med-surg nurses, transplant nurses are a vital part of the transplant team as it is their duty to take care of the patient through every step of the process. The transplant nurse prepares living donors and receiving patients for their procedures. They prepare patients for surgery, assist surgeons during the operation, and give post-operative care that includes keeping an eye on wounds for issues and signs of organ rejection.

A transplant nurse has earned certifications in the area of organ transplants in order to become qualified to work in the field of organ transplant. RNs who become transplant nurses have gone through specialized education and gained job experience that enables them to help patients with the unique challenges they face when they become an organ donor or recipient.

What Does a Transplant Nurse Do?

The transplant nurse job description is one that has a wide range of duties that go beyond daily care of a patient. As previously mentioned, a transplant nurse handles patients from the moment they are accepted into an organ transplant program until the time they give or receive an organ and resume their normal lives. Sometimes a transplant nurse is called upon to help patients who have received a new organ and need ongoing monitoring and care.

Working with Donors

Sometimes a patient is able to donate an organ to a family member or someone who is a match for transplant. A transplant nurse prepares living organ donors for the surgery and what their life is going to be like after they’ve donated an organ. This involves explaining the transplant process, the risks that are involved, what’s involved in the procedures, helping the surgical team during the surgery and giving post-operative care to the patient. The nurse also monitors vital signs, performs wound care and monitors the patient after surgery to watch for complications.

Working With Transplant Recipients

A transplant nurse works with new patients to determine their eligibility for a new organ and counsel the patient on the changes they’ll go through before and after the transplant. They take care of recipients by counseling them on lifestyle changes that are necessary to prepare for their new organ. Patients frequently have to wait long periods of time for an organ to become available and need to extend the viability of their existing organ. Transplant nurses help the patients make changes, monitor the health of the patient and their failing organ, track a patient’s medication and how well the meds are working.

How Do I Become a Transplant Nurse?

In order to become an organ transplant nurse, you need to start with earning your associate’s in nursing or a bachelor/masters of science in nursing. You need to have comprehensive understanding of your role and duties as a nurse. During your schooling, you should take medical-surgical classes and focus your education on working in the surgical suite. You should also focus on working in critical care, intensive care and emergency care to gain necessary experience and skills that come from working in a high-pressure environment. Once you’ve passed your courses and earned your degree, you have to take the NCLEX-RN exam prior to working as an RN.

After you begin your career as an RN, you need at least 12 months of working with organ transplant patients and two years of working as an RN. After you’ve completed two years of work, you can earn your transplant nursing certification. The transplant nursing certification is known as the Certified Clinical Transplant Nurse Certification exam and is offered by the American Board for Transplant Certification.

How Much Does a Transplant Nurse Make?

The BLS states that the average salary for an RN was $73,300 per year in 2019. The actual transplant nurse salary tens to be higher than average due to the specialized nature of the role. The factors to take into consideration when looking at a transplant nurse salary is geographic location, demand for qualified individuals, level of experience and employer. All of these factors play a role when it comes to the salary you’ll earn as a transplant nurse.

There is a strong demand for transplant nurses due to the high volume of people waiting for donors in the U.S. The state of organ donation is such that the demand for medical staff in this field is expected to stay strong over the long run. Someone who starts schooling now with an eye towards becoming a transplant nurse will have an easy time of finding employment after graduating and passing the required exams.

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