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What Is Transplant Nursing?

Some transplant nurses gain experience by working in a transplant ward.
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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 07 October 2014
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Transplant nursing is an area of the nursing profession focusing on providing care to transplant patients, including donors and recipients of transplants. These patients often have complex and unique medical needs. Transplant nurses work to provide patients with a higher level of care, and an increased probability of a successful outcome. People who want to enter the transplant nursing profession will need to complete nursing school and take additional training in this field. Many join professional organizations by taking an examination and committing to continuing education to maintain certification.

One aspect of transplant nursing involves caring for people who donate organs, tissue, bone, and other materials. This includes people like living donors for procedures such as kidney transplants, as well as caring for patients with brain death in preparation for an organ harvest. These patients receive the best medical care possible before a declaration that they are suitable for donation, and this continues after their family members opt to allow a donation. The transplant nurse needs to keep the patient's body as healthy as possible to prevent damage to the organs, and assists the transplant team with preparing the patient for an organ harvest.

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Transplant nurses also care for transplant recipients. This can include providing care to hospitalized people awaiting organs, educating patients on the waiting list about how to care for themselves after transplant surgery, and providing other support to patients. When an organ becomes available, the transplant nurse can help prepare the patient for surgery. After surgery, nurses monitor their patients, provide education to patients and family, and coordinate care, making sure patients get the care they need.

Working in transplant nursing can require the ability to function in chaotic, stressful environments. Whether nurses assist with organ harvest or transplantation, emotions tend to run high among the friends and family of the patient. There is also a significant time crunch as people work to get the donor organ into place quickly and monitor the patient in the critical days after transplant for signs of rejection, infection, and other complications. Transplant nurses need to be observant, calm, and organized.

Careers in transplant nursing usually take people to urban areas, where they can work in transplant centers. Some nurses may travel between facilities. Traveling nurses can make more money over the course of the working year, but the work offers fewer opportunities for continuity of care, reducing the possibilities for making connections with patients and developing strong working relationships with doctors.

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