In honor of Transplant Nurses Day—April 19—we decided to ask a transplant nurse what it’s like to work in this part of the nursing field. Austin Timmons, BSN, RN, CNOR, an Operating Room Registered Nurse at Largo Medical Center in Largo, Florida. Took times to answers some questions for us. What follows is an edited version of our interview.
As a transplant nurse, what does your job entail? What do you do on a daily basis?
A transplant nurse’s job entails many criteria including patient education, clinical care, and patient safety as well as a wide array of interdisciplinary coordination within the hospital. Transplant nurses work closely with transplant physicians, pharmacists, the lab, anesthesia, Organ Procurement Organizations (OPOs), perfusionists, surgical scrub technicians, and other specialists to coordinate the best care possible for our patients.
As an Operating Room nurse specifically, I focus–along with other members of the OR team–on providing the most current standards of care to our patients in a safe and respectful manner. We handle setting up supplies for a transplant procedure, providing education for our patients, keeping the patients safe under anesthesia, handling donor organs, and eventually taking our patients safely to a recovery unit to begin their journey with their new organ.
Why did you choose this field of nursing?
I personally chose this field of nursing to help expand the transplant services within our community and to assist in offering the best care possible for the patients that we receive. We all work closely together and have our own roles to make the procedure come together as a whole. We have a growing presence in our community, and, as a healthcare team, we are proud to be a part of the transplant program.
What are the biggest challenges of your job?
One of the biggest challenges of my job includes seeing the patient immediately before surgery. This is always an emotional time for them, and as nurses, we are able to comfort and sympathize with them at the bedside before the procedure begins. We are constantly in close contact with family members during the procedure to keep them involved and are available for their support as well.
What are the greatest rewards?
On the other side of the coin, the greatest reward as a transplant nurse in the operating room is seeing the patients after the procedure is complete–witnessing their joy and appreciation for this gift of life. For example, after one of our kidney transplant recipients had been brought to the Intensive Care Unit and woke up, the patient began to cry out of joy when they saw they were making their own urine for the first time in over a year. Knowing that our team has played an integral part in such a big milestone for their health is a great feeling.
What would you say to someone considering this type of nursing work?
To someone considering this type of work I would say, “Go for it!” It is a rewarding experience and allows you to work with many different departments and specialties, all of which have one common goal in mind. I believe compassion, attention to detail, organization, highly developed communication skills, and transplant-specific education are needed for this type of nursing work.
Is there anything I haven’t asked you about being a transplant nurse that is important for people to know?
One other thing that I would add is the involvement with our local population. The Transplant Institute of Florida at Largo Medical Center works with Life Link and other organizations to support community-centered events and education regarding donation and transplantation. These events help to strengthen our presence and help reach out to people in need.
Working as a nurse can really take a toll on your body. While many nurses work either all day work or all night work, there are others who work both day and night shifts, and that can be really tough.
We asked some experts for tips on how to make the switch and keep yourself healthy while working swing shifts.
Carrie Silvers, RN, MSN, a professor of nursing at the University of Arizona gave these tips:
On switching days to nights: Stay up later the night before you switch, and sleep in as late as possible. I used to find it hard to nap during the day, anticipating my shift. Schedule early family dinners and bath times for the kids on work nights.
On switching nights to days: A couple of ways I switched included not going to bed right away when I got home in the morning. I was able to see my kids, and make them breakfast. I’d sleep a shorter period of time so that I could go to bed that night and get a good night’s sleep. This also allowed me to be awake when they got home from school, help with homework, dinner, sports, and bedtime stories.
On eating healthy: Eat a balanced and healthy diet full of fresh fruit and vegetables with an increase in lean protein intake. Increasing protein will help with stamina and staying awake. Pack healthy snacks and a meal to take to work. Avoid high fat and fried foods while at work. Limit caffeine intake to early in your shift, and to only a couple of servings. Working during the day I would avoid caffeinated beverages after noon, and on night shift after midnight.
On exercise: I used to exercise before work because it helped me to wake up and get my blood circulating. Even a walk or 30-minute exercise videos work.
On staying hydrated: Drink a lot of water. At least 8 glasses/shift. You’ll feel hydrated, less tired, and your body will thank you.
Nicole Thomas, RN, MSN, CCM, founder of Nicole Thomas, Inc and Going Beyond the Chart, has been a nurse for more than 11 years and worked many swing shifts. Here are some of her tips for working swing shifts:
Get a calendar and get organized. By working swing shifts, it is very easy to forget other obligations including medical appointments, family functions, meetings, etc. for yourself and your family. You must get organized, and you can do that by getting a planner that you can write in or simply use google calendar which is free and has a mobile app which is amazing.
Do things you enjoy doing. While it’s important to rest, you have to have fun and enjoy life. Working shift work oftentimes limits you being able to enjoy events, family functions, etc. so you must make time to do the things you like. If you don’t, you can feel like you are missing out on living a fulfilling life. Have a balance.
Ever wonder why you might think about earning a certification? In honor of Certified Nurses Day, we asked Karen S. Kesten, DNP, RN, APRN, CCRN-K, CCNS, CNE, associate professor at George Washington University School of Nursing in Washington, DC, as well as the chair of the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses Certification Corporation board of directors her opinion on the matter.
What follows is an edited version of our Q&A.
How long have you been in the nursing field and what certifications do you hold?
I have been a nurse since 1974. My first certification was in 1980 as a CCRN. Now I hold these certifications:
- CCNS (Acute/Critical Care Clinical Nurse Specialist, Adult) – 2004 to present
- CCRN-K (Acute/Critical Care Knowledge Professional, Adult) – 2015 to present
- CNE (Certified Nurse Educator) – 2012 to 2017
Why do you think it’s important for nurses to get certifications? What does it do for them? For the field?
It is so important that nurses become certified because it demonstrates that they have the knowledge, skills, and attitudes to provide high quality care to patients and their families. A certified nurse is a lifelong learner who cares about the quality of care they deliver. Nurses who are certified feel more confident that the care they are delivering is based on the most up-to-date evidence. Certified nurses are proud of their achievement and are role models for nurses and other health care professionals. Certification shows that nursing is a profession that cares about safety, quality, and excellence of health care delivery.
What’s the difference between board certification and being certified in a specialty?
Board certification means that certification is required for licensure, such as in the example of advanced practice registered nurses (APRN). In this case, a board of experts at the state level in the field of nursing examines the credentials and qualifications of a nurse in order to determine eligibility for licensure. Certification in a specialty indicates that a nurse has acquired additional knowledge, skills, and expertise in a specialty area of nursing such as acute and critical care.
How do you know you’re ready to become certified?
Preparation for certification requires that the nurse meet the eligibility requirements such as gaining experience in providing direct care for a required period of time for the relevant patient population. It also involves setting certification as a specific target goal, studying, and acquiring the knowledge needed to pass the certification exam. There are courses, study materials, and practice tests that can help a nurse to prepare for certification. Progress on self-assessment practice exams can help nurses know if they are ready to sit for the exam to become certified.
Do you need additional education to become certified? What are the requirements to apply?
To become certified as a critical care nurse (CCRN) or progressive care nurse (PCCN), a nurse does not need additional formal education. However, it is helpful to prepare—and there are prep courses, study materials, and practice tests that can help prepare for certification. You do need additional education at the master’s or doctoral level in order to become certified as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), such as an adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (ACNPC-AG) or adult-gerontology clinical nurse specialist (ACCNS-AG).
What does it take to maintain your certification?
Nurses who maintain their certifications must meet renewal criteria that involve continuing education and, in some cases, continuing practice experience and an unencumbered nursing license.
What have been the greatest rewards for you that happened because you earned your certification?
Earning my certification makes me feel proud of the care that I deliver; it makes me feel more confident and self-assured. Certification enables me to feel more satisfied with my career—that I’ve provided competent care. It’s also opened doors to opportunities that I might not have had otherwise. Certification has introduced me to knowledgeable compassionate nurse mentors and to a community of nurses who care about delivering excellent care to acutely and critically ill patients and their families.
What would you say to someone considering becoming certified in any field?
I would encourage anyone to seek certification in their field to demonstrate they have the competence, knowledge, and skills to excel in their profession.
The nursing program at MidAmerica Nazarene University, with the help of Digital Third Coast, created an infographic depicting data on the perceived stigma of male nurses. Through their research, they gleaned quite a lot of interesting information.
For example, while it’s well-known that mainly men served as nurses in the past, their research indicates that “Due to associations with the military and religious orders, there was significant male representation in the nursing profession through the late 1800s.” The visual even shows a photo of famed poet Walt Whitman with his male nurse, Fritzenger.
When did this all change? According to the graphic, legal barriers in the early 1900s contributed to the scarcity of male nurses. In fact, many nursing schools would not even admit men. This didn’t officially change, though, until 1981 when the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that not admitting men to nursing schools was unconstitutional.
As a result, during the 1930s and 1940s, the percentage of nurses who were male decreased to its lowest point, which according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor was 1%. Not surprisingly, that percentage has risen over the years. As stated in the 2013 Census, out of the 3.5 million employed nurses, 78% are Registered Nurses (9.6% of these are male); 19% are Licensed Practical and Vocational Nurses; 3% are Nurse Practitioners; and 1% are Nurse Anesthetists (41% of these are male).
From these statistics, it can be concluded that men are more likely to become nurse anesthetists—which is the highest paid role in the nursing field. With women making up the majority of the nursing field, one would assume that they tend to make more in terms of salary, right?
Wrong. Female nurses make only 91 cents per every dollar that male nurses make.
For more fascinating facts about the perceived stigma of male nurses, check out the infographic here.
In the past, most nurse roles on television were played by women. Just as the number of men in the nursing profession in real life is increasing, we’re likewise starting to see more men in nursing roles on television.
We chose some of our favorites—because we either loved or could barely tolerate them or they made an impact during their time on the small screen. Here they are, in no order of preference.
Fictional Character: Thor Lundgren
Played by: Stephen Wallem
Show: Nurse Jackie
Everyone loved Thor—he was smart, strong, and funny as heck. And he tried to help Jackie. If he wasn’t shooting the breeze with Jackie in the chapel, he was dealing with Zoey. But in a moment’s notice, he was right there, saving patients. We’d want him as our nurse.
Fictional Character: Peter Petrelli
Played by: Milo Ventimiglia
With all the challenges they face, nurses in real life may often feel like they need superpowers. In the TV show Heroes, the nurse actually had them. Peter Petrelli, played by Milo Ventimiglia (who’s now starring on the hit show This Is Us), was working as a hospice nurse when he realized that he was evolved and could absorb the powers of other humans who were evolved. Wouldn’t that be great to do when working a double shift?
Fictional Character: William Dell Parker
Played by: Chris Lowell
Show: Private Practice, a Grey’s Anatomy spinoff
While he worked as a receptionist, Dell Parker was a qualified nurse and began training to work as a midwife. Unfortunately, his character was killed off in a car crash. But the time he had on the show, he made quite an impression
Fictional Character: Rory Williams
Played by: Arthur Darvill
Show: Dr. Who
As a nurse in a coma ward, Rory Williams is a close companion to the 11th Dr. Who, played by Matt Smith. Hey, he gets to help people and go in the TARDIS? What’s not to love?
Fictional Character: Clark Beavers
Played by: Jonathan Slavin
Show: Dr. Ken
Clark Beavers is hilarious. He calls Dr. Ken (played by Ken Jeong) his “work husband,” walks with a group at the mall, and really loves shrimp. But the reason we love him is because he makes us laugh.
Fictional Character: Jesus Velasquez
Played by: Kevin Alejandro
Show: True Blood
When he comes to work as a nurse for Lafayette’s mom, Jesus Velasquez ends up becoming the fabulous one’s boyfriend. He then introduces Lafayette to witchcraft and being a medium. While they worked well together, Jesus gets killed off, although he did return in a future episode as a ghost.
Fictional Character: Paul Flowers
Played by: Ricky Schroder
Even though he only graced us with his presence for a few episodes, nurse Paul Flowers made a big impression. He put up with Dr. Kelso’s nasty remarks, “That’s a woman’s job, son.” But he also dated Dr. Elliott Reid, played by Sarah Chalke. While she gets embarrassed by being with a male nurse who has been known to wear pink scrubs, Paul tries to show her the error of her ways. Unfortunately, she dumps him, and Paul was no more. But he showed how male nurses could be comfortable with their masculinity while they cared for patients.