What Does a Transplant Nurse Do?
Transplant nurses are specially trained to provide nursing care and support for patients before, during and after they receive an organ transplant. They also work with living donors, educating them on their upcoming surgical procedure, how they should prepare, and any risks involved in donation. Living donors are those who voluntarily choose to donate organs and tissues such as bone marrow, a kidney or even a portion of their liver. Other patients, however, receive essential organs, such as a heart or lungs, from donors who have already died. Transplant nurses take medical histories, ensure that the proper documentation is signed, order lab tests to confirm an organ match, and clear patients and donors for surgical procedures with the help of one or more physicians. Some transplant nurses assist with the surgical procedure, passing medical instruments and checking vitals. Others work only in post-operative care, monitoring the patient for signs of organ rejection, monitoring donors for signs of complications, administering pain medications and/or positioning the patient so that they can recover as quickly and comfortably as possible.
How Can I Become a Transplant Nurse?
The first step toward becoming a transplant nurse is to complete an approved nursing education program. The most common way of doing this is to earn a degree in nursing. Most nurses have earned either an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university, although the BSN is overwhelmingly the preferred degree. Less common is earning a nursing diploma, a program typically offered through hospitals. During your nursing education, it is helpful to specialize in medical-surgical nursing. After completing a nursing program, all future nurses go on to take an exam called the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) so they can become licensed to practice nursing in their state. Most nurses must gain a few years experience as a staff nurse working in critical care, intensive care or medical-surgical nursing before moving into transplant nursing. After accumulating significant clinical experience working with organ transplant patients, you can become board certified as a Certified Clinical Transplant Nurse through the American Board for Transplant Certification.
What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for a Transplant Nurse?
The career outlook for registered nurses overall is excellent, and experienced nurses who specialize in a particular area of health care, such as transplant nursing, are often highly sought-after. The demand for organ transplants is already high (more than 100,000 people are awaiting organs in the U.S. alone) and is only expected to increase as the population grows; the number of donors is also increasing every year. This should lead to significant job growth for transplant nurses. The overall employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary for a transplant nurse is $62,000, according to SimplyHired.com, a site that calculates average salaries based on what is listed in the job postings it receives. A number of factors can affect your salary as a transplant nurse, including how many years of experience you have, what certifications you have, what region of the U.S. you live in, and whether you are working in a metropolitan or rural area.