From the time spent waiting for an organ for donation to the post-surgical recovery, transplant nurses play an integral role in the lives of patients involved in transplants. Today, National Transplant Nurses Day, recognizes that work.

The International Transplant Nurses Society started a national recognition day for transplant nurses in 2006. Since then, they have attracted attention to the day and boosted recognition for all these nurses do in their field. The organization even builds pride with an essay contest in which patients may nominate a nurse who has had a particularly important impact in their lives.

But the day also shines a light on the varies responsibilities of nurses who are an integral part of the transplant team.

According to the Health Career Institute, transplant nurses’ duties can range from prepping patients for transplant surgery and assisting in the transplant surgery itself to monitoring post-surgery for organ rejection or complications.

Before deciding on this career path, prospective transplant nurses generally gain experience in the field by working in a transplant unit. Eventually, certification as a clinical transplant nurse will help you provide the best patient care and will also signal to your organization how committed you are to your job. Certification in the field through the American Board for Transplant Certification shows you are willing to go beyond your job requirements and gain additional training and education to remain on the forefront of transplant-related practices.

Nurses who work with transplant patients and their families may be involved in cases of living donors or deceased donors. They must remain sensitive to the complex emotional environment surrounding the origins of the donated organs while remaining a vigilant advocate for the organ recipient’s health first and foremost.

Transplants are becoming more and more complex, with multi-organ transplants a more common surgery than ever before. Transplant nurses on the leading edge of the field will want to be well-educated on all the body systems involved and the varied ways that can present challenges in the human body. Because the transplant team includes many diverse specialists, transplant nurses have to work well on a fast-paced team where situations change in an instant and the clear path isn’t always obvious. They have to have excellent critical thinking and be knowledgeable and confident enough to make excellent decisions based on the patient in front of them.

With the emotional challenges and complexities around transplantation and the patients and families involved, transplant nurses have to be sure to have resources to deal with the emotional extremes–from grief to joy—that will become part of their daily routine. But they are reassured about the impact they are making for the patients they treat. A lifelong connection often develops from playing such an essential role in someone’s journey.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil is a freelance writer based in Bolton, Massachusetts.
Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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