Recognizing Transplant Nurses’ Work

Recognizing Transplant Nurses’ Work

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.

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.

Transplant Nurses Week Begins April 26

Transplant Nurses Week Begins April 26

Transplant nurses celebrate their specialty this week and raise awareness for the specific area of nursing during this year’s Transplant Nurses Week, April 26 through May 3.

Transplant nurses help patients throughout the donation, surgical, recovery, or lifelong maintenance stages of tissue and organ transplants. With what is generally a long process that could begin with a patient’s end-stage disease and the need for a transplant to the successful long-term recovery of living organ donors and organ transplant recipients, transplant nurses develop close relationships with their patients.

Transplant nurses will care for all ages of patients and for people in all stages of health. They could be caring for a healthy individual donating an organ or a patient who is significantly ill and waiting for a donation. They will work with tissues and organs that can come from living and deceased donors and will navigate the emotional complexities that come with all donation stories.

As patients begin the complex process of preparing for transplantation, nurses will serve as excellent resources of information, education, and compassion for patients and families. A transplant nurse will help patients prepare physically for surgery, will be present for the surgery, will assist in their recovery in the hospital, and then will help them coordinate care for their return home. They will be able to work with patients to show them how to take care of any wounds, use any necessary equipment, and will explain some of the symptoms or changes they need to watch for and report that could signal organ rejection or an infection.

If you’re thinking of becoming a transplant nurse, the path begins with the general experience that  many other nurses pursue on the way to a specialty. You’ll need to obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing (when you’re looking for employment, you might find that some organizations may accept an associate’s degree and others may require a master’s degree). Upon completion of your degree program, you’ll take the NCLEX to become qualified as a registered nurse. Prospective transplant nurses will want to work for at least two years in nursing with at least one year of that time working directly with organ transplant units.

Once you’ve secured a position in the field, you’ll spend time gaining experience and working on varied cases before you take the next important step to certification. Although certification isn’t required, it is valuable for a nurse to provide the best care possible and to continue to improve as a practicing nurse. Although nurses sometimes worry they won’t pass a certification exam—and some even fail to pursue the path because of that worry—remember a certification exam in your specialty is a focused test. You’ll be taking an exam on the techniques and practices that are generally part of your everyday routine. You’ll need to study, but you won’t be tested on obscure details of another nursing practice.

Nurses in this specialty have access to several professional organizations where they can build strong networks, further their education with certifications, reflect on the profession with others, and influence policy that could impact transplant nurses and their patients.

The International Transplant Nurses Society (check out the ITNS Facebook page), sponsors of Transplant Nurses Week, offers a way to connect with other professionals with members across the globe. Even if they are based in the United States, nurses might want to check out the resources of the Australia-based Transplant Nurses’ Association. And NATCO, the Organization for Transplant and Donation Professionals, is a helpful resource for nurses wishing to find out more about research, professional training, and professional opportunities.

As a transplant nurse, you’ll be part of a team that is helping donors and recipients manage the process with the best possible outcomes. Your team could include everything from surgeons to social workers, and your input will be invaluable as you advocate for your patients.

This is a challenging and rewarding area of nursing. Use this week to spread awareness about all transplant nurses do.

Transplant Nurses Transform Lives

Transplant Nurses Transform Lives

Nurses across the world are celebrating Transplant Nurses Week this week from  April 27 to May 4. Sponsored by the International Transplant Nurses Society, this week helps spotlight  what transplant nurses do in their everyday work and what skills nurses need in a career as a transplant nurse.

Transplant nurses care for patients in each stage of transplants and with both donors and recipients. From initial contact to treatment after procedures or surgery, transplant nurses provide nursing care, monitor patients, and work with patients and families around education. Nurses in this specialty have extensive knowledge of how the body reacts to tissue and organ transplants and the preparation and aftercare needed to help patients achieve the best possible outcomes.

Because transplants are very specialized, nurses in the transplant field can expect to work in specific areas like hospitals or transplant facilities. Nurses who prefer to work in one consistent area rather than move with a more dynamic schedule, between satellites of one organization or between several providers’ offices for instance, might find the stability of one working place a good option.

But transplant nurses wouldn’t ever expect one day to be like another. Transplants involve living and deceased donors, each of which brings a background and history to be understood and respected. Recipients also bring their own stories, expectations, hopes, and fears and, because of that, transplant nurses will navigate many emotional ups and downs, in addition to the physical challenges of transplantation, with patients and their loved ones.

A transplant patient’s road can be long and arduous, so transplant nurses might find they work with pediatric to senior patients who are in varying stages of emotional and physical health. Working as part of a transplant team gives nurses professional colleagues whom they can work with across disciplines. This kind of team approach brings in specialties that cover the patient’s whole health, and nurses will play an essential role in making sure each patient has an advocate.

As a nurse working with transplant patients, your conversations with your patients can help guide how you plan preparation for and recovery from the transplant as well. You’ll gain insight into the daily life, typical habits, eating and activity patterns, and social supports the patient has in place. Each of these details will help you establish proper supports and guidance for preparing for the surgery. You will likely assist during the transplant procedure itself, monitoring the patient and being their advocate while they are under anesthesia. In post-op recovery, you’ll continue to monitor the patient, watching for any signs of trouble or transplant rejection or infection.

Obtaining certification should absolutely be on your list as this extra knowledge will help you provide better care and will keep you up-to-date on the latest practices and findings in transplant specialty. You’ll need at least one year of full-time work as a med-surge or critical care nurse to gain a broad nursing foundation before you can apply for the certified clinical transplant nurse (CCTN) certification exam.

Transplant nurses are especially needed as organ donation and transplant continues to see an increase. With their skill and their compassion, these nurses make an incredible difference.

Celebrate Transplant Nurses Day

Celebrate Transplant Nurses Day

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.

Celebrate Transplant Nurses Day on April 19

Celebrate Transplant Nurses Day on April 19

The International Transplant Nurses Society sponsors the Transplant Nurses Day on April 19 this year, and the organization offers some great tips and suggestions for celebrating the day.

Transplant nurses specialize in the care of people who are undergoing or have had transplant surgery of solid organs. Since 2006, the ITNS has helped honor nurses who are committed to this branch of nursing by recognizing their efforts and their skill on the third Wednesday of every April.

The transplant nurses on staff work with a distinct population and help patients through all phases of care. They are there to help both the sickest patients awaiting transplant surgery and the healthy live donors, and assist during the procedures. Transplant nurses also work closely with patients and their families post-surgery to ensure everything goes as smoothly as possible and to monitor for any complications such as organ rejection.

During this year’s Transplant Nurses Day, take a few tips from the ITNS and shower your transplant nurses with some extra love. Like with many other holidays to celebrate a specific field of nursing, the celebration to honor a group is what makes it special.

A luncheon or a gathering with cake and coffee is always a nice break in the day and a good way to say thanks. This is a great time to call out some nurses who have gone above and beyond their job duties and give them a small gift like a gift card to a local shop or coffee store they love. Personal thank you notes are also always appreciated.

In keeping with the ITNS mission, spreading education about transplant nurses and what they do is important. Invite local and state legislators to come hear a presentation in the near future about this profession. If you’re a transplant nurse, see if your team will take the time to make a presentation to a local school or library to teach others about what you do.

If transplant nursing sounds like something you would like to do, you’ll need to obtain your RN and then gain experience in critical care and surgical units. You need to be certified with a Transplant Nurses Certification through the American Board for Transplant Certification. As the field is so fast-paced, keeping up with the latest cutting-edge research and outcomes will become part of your job duties.

Say thank you to your transplant nurses on Transplant Nurses Day, and if you’re a transplant nurse, take the time today to honor all you do and the patients you help.