Becoming a transplant nurse

September 15, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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In the midst of a surgical procedure in a Tanzanian hospital. Various types of medical conditions and diseases can lead to organ failure. People who need organ transplants often wait for years. In many instances, during that time, the patient’s quality of life may be greatly diminished due to severe organ damage or failure. Nurses working in the field of transplants have an opportunity to help patients get a second chance at life.

Transplant nurses are part of the team that cares for patients before, during and after an organ transplant. Organs may be donated after a person dies, but in some cases, donations can be taken from a living donor. For example, bone marrow may be donated while a person is alive. In this case, transplant nurses will also care for the person donating an organ or tissue.

Nurses may care for patients undergoing different types of transplants, such as liver, heart, kidney and bone marrow. Part of the job of a transplant nurse is to educate patients and donors on the process of donation, such as the risks and possible complications. Patients also need to be aware of the preparation procedures and how to take care of themselves after a transplant.

In addition to providing information and answering questions, transplant nurses have many other responsibilities. Organ transplants involve a lot of preparation and care. Nurses will take medical histories and order lab tests to confirm an organ match. While patients are waiting for a suitable donor, they also need specialized care. Nurses may instruct patients on lifestyle changes to improve quality of life.

After the transplant, nurses will perform various duties, such as administering medication, caring for surgical incisions and monitoring a patient for signs of rejection and complications.

Training to become transplant nurse

The road to becoming a transplant nurse starts by earning your registered nursing degree. After passing the National Council Licensure Examination, you can start working as a nurse. Transplant nursing is considered specialized. You will need at least a few years of experience working as a nurse before you can move into this specialty.

Nurses interested in becoming transplant nurses should try to gain experience working in medical, surgical units taking care of patients postoperatively. Taking continuing education classes on transplant nursing may also be helpful. Many medical centers may prefer to hire nurses with a bachelor’s or master’s degree, so getting an advanced degree may also be beneficial.

If possible, work in the intensive care unit for a year or two in order to get a good foundation for working with critically ill patients. Once you have a few years of experience, you can apply for a job working with transplant patients. The American Board for Transplant Certification offers a certification exam for transplant nurses who have a minimum of one year working with transplant patients.

Transplant nursing may be an excellent choice for nurses who enjoy educating patients. In addition, transplant nurses work closely with their patients and their families. They may care for patients for several years. This allows nurses to build rapport and get to know their patients, which many nurses may find rewarding.