This week honors transplant nurses around the world as they continue to set a high standard of excellence and work in a constantly changing nursing specialty. The International Transplant Nurses Society, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, marks this year’s Transplant Nurses Week from April 25 to May 2.

Transplant nurses work with patients, their families and caregivers, and all the relevant healthcare teams as a patient progresses through the different stages of solid organ transplant (preparation, transplant, recovery, and maintenance) as a recipient or a donor. Transplant nurses also work on teams where a deceased patient is an organ donor, and they work quickly and respectfully for this lifesaving match to have the most potential for success.

Although transplant nurses may not directly care for COVID patients in their daily routines, the pandemic has nonetheless impacted this area of nursing in untold ways.

  • People who live with a transplanted organ are often immunocomprimised because of the medications they take to prevent rejection of the transplant and that has posed complications for their risk for contracting the virus.
  • The pandemic interrupted transplant plans leading to early slight decreases which had a domino effect for those waiting for organs.
  • The virus has sickened people to the point of organ failure some of whom then receive a transplant go onto a waiting list.
  • A patient’s vaccination status has impacted some planned transplants.

All of those recent developments influence the daily work of transplant nurses and those they care for. As advocates for their patients, transplant nurses are equipped to offer the highest quality, evidence-based care. They may take advantage of professional development and certification to keep their skills current.

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Transplant nurses also know that they are ambassadors for organ transplant and donation. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing, spreading the word about organ donation will make a difference in how many lives are saved. The more people who understand the process of a live donation or who take a few moments to register as an organ donor when they renew their license, for instance, can save more lives every year.

Nurses in their specialty know every bit of accurate information around the process helps more people understand the life-saving potential and possibly become a donor. Nurses can help spread the word in casual interactions with family and friends, or they can advocate in the larger community. They can offer formal information sessions in their hometowns, to professional organizations, or to legislators and other government officials who can help move forward transplant-related or transplant-beneficial legislation.

If you’re a nursing student considering transplant nursing as a career choice, be sure to spend some time with transplant nurses and their patients. Understand the complexity of the transplant process, the commitment to lifelong learning, and the intense emotional highs and lows of working with the families who are involved in some way. The rewards of this nursing specialty are significant and provide a lasting and meaningful career.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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Celebrate Transplant Nurses Day on April 19
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