The role of a transplant nurse in organ transplantation

October 7, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Healthy organs are crucial to good health and proper functioning of the body. Medical problems that affect the major organs in the body are usually very serious, and more often than not, fatal. Fortunately, medical advances during the last century have made it possible to transplant a patient’s unhealthy organs with healthy organs from organ donors. These healthy organs are commonly harvested from deceased as well as living donors.

Gathered round observing a surgical procedure The process of organ donation and transplantation can be lengthy and extremely stressful. First, the transplant team must determine if a donor patient would make a good candidate for organ transplantation. The transplant patient should also be in reasonably good health, other than the medical problem affecting their organs. In addition, they must be prepared to make the necessary lifestyle changes and live a healthy lifestyle. There is almost always a shortage of organs as compared to the demand so eligible patients are usually placed on a waiting list. When a suitable or matching organ becomes available, if the shortlisted patient is healthy enough to undergo surgery, he or she is rushed into surgery at short notice.

In addition to a healthy organ and a reasonably healthy patient, a safe and successful organ transplant procedure requires a highly skilled team of professionals, which includes physicians, surgeons, nurses, transplant coordinators and relevant specialists.

One of the most important of these professionals within an organ transplant team is a transplant nurse. Transplant nurses are highly skilled and are an integral member of any organ transplant team. They often have the most one-on-one contact with transplant patients.

These specialist nurses provide nursing care to patients who are scheduled to undergo an organ transplant. They are completely involved in the transplant process from the beginning to the end, from preparing the patient prior to the procedure and assisting the surgeon during the transplant to caring for the patient after the procedure and ensuring that the body does not reject the transplanted organ. Transplant nurses also work with the organ donors. They educate them about the transplant process and answer any questions they might have about the procedure.

Patients who are in need of an essential organ, whether it is a heart, kidney or lung, must rely on finding a matching organ from a living or deceased donor. To help prepare for this life-saving procedure, the transplant nurse will first do an in depth review of the patient’s medical history and determine their current health before doing an analysis of the lab test results to confirm an organ match. If everything is in order, they will then take the time to educate the donor as well as the transplant patient about the upcoming procedure. 

A transplant nurse also plays an active role in the actual procedure by helping the surgeon who is performing the transplant surgery. After the procedure is complete, the transplant nurse will continue keeping a close eye on the patient’s vital signs, administer medicine to reduce pain, monitor their heart rate, check for possible organ rejection by the patient’s body, and inform the patient of the results of the operation.