What Is Transplant Nursing?
Transplant nursing is the area of nursing that involves working with patients that are either donating an organ or receiving a donated organ. In addition to simply caring for the physical needs of these patients before and after the transplant surgery takes place, it is also necessary to discuss the risks involved with both parties and prepare them emotionally for the surgery. Finding donors is also part of your job. Transplant nurses sometimes also assist during the transplant procedure.
Nature Of The Work/Duties
The following are the main duties you will perform as a transplant nurse:
- You will need to take medical histories for both the recipient and the donor as part of ensuring that the procedure can go forward safely.
- In the case of organ transplants the donor and recipient need to match in terms of their DNA. As a transplant nurse your job will involve ordering lab tests to confirm these matches.
- Once you have assessed the donor and the recipient thoroughly you will be able to give the go-ahead, declaring that they are fit for the transplant surgery.
- After surgery both the donor and the recipient could experience negative side effects that may be severe. Consequently you will be required to carefully monitor their vital signs in the recovery room and after.
As a transplant nurse you will only be able to work in areas where transplants are performed. However, in addition to that, you can work in areas where RNs are employed with no specialties, provided you keep your RN license and training up to date. The most common places to find transplant nurses are in hospitals where these procedures are performed as well as at special facilities that are aimed at furthering the research into transplant technology and where special transplant procedures may be performed. In some cases transplant nurses are hired specifically to speak to potential donors about donating an organ of some kind, such as their corneas, after death, or while they are still alive (as several transplant procedures can occur between living patients, e.g. kidney transplants, liver transplants).
Transplant Nursing Requirements
The basic requirements that you will need to meet to become a transplant nurse are as follows:
- You will need to earn an RN license by completing the necessary training degree programs and passing the NCLEX-RN examination.
- You will then need to get experience working as an RN. The best areas to get experience in are critical care, in intensive care, or in medical-surgical nursing as these will all provide you with some of the basic skills you need to be a transplant nurse.
- Once you have worked for the number of years required by your state as an RN you will be eligible to take the Transplant Nurse Certification exam through the American Board for Transplant Certification.
- Completing this exam will certify you to work as a nurse with transplant nursing expertise.
In order to be a successful transplant nurse you must be thick-skinned. This will come in handy when talking to patients or their families about what will happen to their organs after death. If you work in a transplant research center a thirst for new knowledge will be invaluable. Generally this is a good trait to have in any nursing profession. Because transplant nursing involves a large degree of uncertainty as well as multiple occurrences throughout your career that you will be unable to plan for, you will not be suited for this job if you are tied down by routine and prefer everything to be carefully planned out. A positive attitude and an undying positive energy will stand you in good stead as you help your patients face the daunting process of having a transplant.
The following educational requirements are necessary when becoming a transplant nurse:
- You must have a high school diploma or GED before you can enter RN training
- You need to have a Nursing Diploma, OR
- You need to have an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN), OR
- You need to have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
- You need to take elective courses in medical-surgical nursing during your nursing training
- You must take it upon yourself to find educational resources that will prepare you to take the certification exam
In short, you need to become an RN before you can become a transplant nurse. The different degrees mentioned above will take varying lengths of time to complete. The higher your qualification, the longer it will take, but the better your resume will look.
The license that you need to hold in order to work as a nurse with a specialization in transplant nursing is your RN license. To earn your RN license you will need to attend an RN program. If you are already an LPN there are a number of LPN to RN training programs that you could take advantage of that will speed up you’re the achievement of your RN qualification. Once you have completed the accredited RN training program you need to apply for licensure form your state board of nursing. Often there is a fee involved in this. Once your application is confirmed you write the NCLEX-RN examination. Passing the exam means you are licensed. Your license must be renewed at set intervals (determined by your state board of nursing).
How To Become A Transplant Nurse
Training, Advancement And Other Qualifications
There are several qualifications that you can earn in the field of transplant nursing, all of which are offered by the American Board for Transplant Certification (ABTC). These are:
- You could consider becoming a Certified Clinical Transplant Coordinator (CCTC)
- You could consider becoming a Certified Procurement Transplant Coordinator (CPTC)
- You could consider becoming a Certified Clinical Transplant Nurse (CCTN)
A coordinator will be in charge of transplant operations at a facility where such procedures are performed. If you are a procurement coordinator your job will involve finding sources of organs to be used in specific transplant cases that are urgent, or just building up a list of future possibilities. Lastly you can simply be a certified clinical transplant nurse which involves all of the general transplant nursing tasks mentioned here.
Source An Accredited Education Program
An accredited program is essential if you want to be guaranteed that you will be able to complete your qualification and become a nurse with specialty in transplant nursing. Your state board of nursing will be able to inform you regarding which programs in your area are accredited and which are not. This is more reliable than asking the schools themselves for accreditation information. The bodies that accredit schools of nursing are also useful resources to turn for and there are many websites on the internet providing lists of accredited schools. One reliable way of finding an accredited program is by asking current registered nurses where they studied – they can only be nurses if the program they studied through were accredited, making this one of the best sources if information possible on the topic.
Earn Your Associate’s Degree
There are several degrees that you could choose to complete on your path to becoming an RN with a specialty in transplant nursing. These are:
- A bachelor’s degree in nursing
- An associate’s degree in nursing
- A master’s degree in nursing, and
- A doctoral degree in nursing
The associate’s degree is one of the more popular options. To earn an associate’s degree you will have to look into what nursing degree programs are offered in your area and choose one based on whether or not it meets your criteria. Apply for the program by adhering the application procedures and requirements of that particular school. Completing your program will take a few years and will require hard work and effort. Successful completion of the program results in an associate’s degree allowing you take the licensing exam.
Obtain Your Licensure
The only license that you need to be transplant nurse is an RN license. However there is a certification examination that you can pass in order to receive certification in the specialty of transplant nursing specifically. To do this you will first need to achieve the required number of years of experience in the field of nursing in the capacity of an RN. In addition to this you should focus on continuing education credits that will be useful in transplant nursing. You then need to apply to the American Board for Transplant Certification to write the Transplant Nurse Certification exam. There are a number of courses offered online and offline for the specific purpose of preparing you to make a success of this examination. Passing the exam will earn you transplant nursing certification.
Online/Distance Education Programs
Online distance education programs are possible for both aspects of your training, namely:
- Your RN qualification, and
- Your Transplant Nurse Certification exam preparation
However it must be noted that, when it comes to your NR qualification, it can only completed partially online. An RN program consists of a theory side as well as a clinical side and you need to complete both in order to become qualified. Clinical hand-son training cannot be done online. Consequently you will at some point be required to find a facility where you can complete your clinical training
You Transplant Nurse Certification exam, on the other hand, is merely a preparation course to write the theory-based exam and can therefore be completed entirely online. It is not even a requirement, just a suggested method of ensuring that you pass the exam first time.
The job outlook for transplant nursing is excellent as there is a significant growth in the number of people who require organ transplants each year. In addition, advances in medical technology are making it possible for more and more complex procedures to be performed. As a result of this a nurse with a specialization in transplant nursing will be in increasingly greater demand as the years pass. Nursing in general is growing at a very fast pace, affecting all nurses for the better. Because transplant nurses are required to engage in the same RN training as general RNs, they are also able to work in general nursing settings, expanding their job options even further. For stability and room for future growth and advancement, this is one of the best industries to choose.
Transplant Nursing Earnings
The median salary for nurses working in transplant nursing is about $76,522 a year. This can vary greatly, however, as you can see below:
- In the tenth percentile nurses earn $63,536 a year
- In the twenty fifth percentile nurses earn $69,725 a year
- In the seventy fifth percentile nurses earn $83,752 a year
- In the ninetieth percentile nurses earn $90,333 a year
However even at the bottom end of this range the salary is fairly impressive and makes the job of a transplant nurse seem highly attractive. Other things that can affect the salary that you are eligible to earn in this specialty are the level of education you have, the state that you work in, and the industry in which you are employed as a nurse with a transplant nursing specialty.
The fact that you can earn a fairly good salary as a transplant nurse is one of the main factors that this line of nursing has in its favor. In addition, as compared to other nursing specialties, the education path to becoming a transplant nurse is not as intensive. That being said not all nursing specialties are suitable for all nurses. Before choosing a career in transplant nursing or any other field of specialization you need to think carefully about the pros and cons of the field before determining whether or not you have the personality, skills, and will to complete the necessary steps to becoming a specialist in that area and to leading a successful career in that area.