Transplant nurses spend their time caring for patients who are either donating or receiving an organ. Read on to learn about the education requirements, job description and typical salary of a transplant nurse.
If you enjoy a challenging career that revolves around preparing for surgeries, helping with surgical procedures, and providing post-operative care, a career as a transplant nurse may be a wise choice. Transplant nurses assist with every phase of the transplant procedure, from donation to discharge instructions. A transplant nurse often works with deceased donors, which are people who have died and left instructions for the hospital to collect their organs and give them to living patients. In such cases, the nurse may monitor the deceased donor’s body until the surgical team arrives, prepare the body for the surgery and even assist during the procedure.
Transplant nurses may also work with living donors. Living donors, who are patients who agree to donate tissues or organs, rely on transplant nurses to prepare them for the procedure and inform them of the risks involved in the donation. Finally, transplant nurses may assist in the transplant procedure, provide post-operative care to recipients and living donors, monitor patients for signs of complications and provide discharge instructions to the patients when they are ready to return home.
Work Environment and Job Duties
If you choose a career as a transplant nurse, you will most likely work in an in-patient setting within the surgical department of a hospital. Transplant nurses rarely work a set schedule, since nurses must be on duty to monitor transplant patients at all times. Likewise, organs become available from deceased donors at all hours of the night, and transplants must occur soon after the donor passes away.
During a given day on the job, a transplant nurse may:
•Discuss the risks of surgery with potential donors and transplant patients
•Prepare patients for surgery
•Assist during harvest or transplant procedures
•Care for patients following transplant procedures
•Monitor patients for signs of infection, organ rejection or other complications
•Complete paperwork related to the procedure or a patient’s status
•Explain discharge instructions to patients preparing to leave the hospital after surgery
Requirements and Education
To become a transplant nurse, you must first obtain an associate’s degree in nursing or a bachelors of science in nursing. Next, you must take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination to obtain your registered nursing license. After entering the nursing field, you should spend several years working in the surgical department of a hospital before taking your Transplant Nurse Certification Exam from the American Board for Transplant Certification. After you pass this exam, you will become a Certified Clinical Transplant Nurse.
During school, your education requirements will be the same as the other nurses in your program. However, if you know that you want to become a transplant nurse in the future, you should try to take electives that focus on surgical nursing to prepare you for your career.
Salary and Career Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics 2010 employment data, registered nurses earned an average salary of $64,690. Transplant nurses are registered nurses who have received specialized training and additional certification, so they may earn a higher-than-average salary. The BLS also reports that openings in the field of registered nursing will increase by 26 percent from 2010 to 2020. Because more people require organ transplants each year, it is likely that openings for certified transplant nurses will increase.