How To Become A Transplant Nurse

What Is Transplant Nursing?

Transplant nursing involves working both with patients who are receiving an organ donation and will undergo organ transplant surgery, as well as with those patients who are donating the organs in question in cases where a live donor is used (clearly live donors cannot be used for all procedures). This involves caring for their physical needs as well as preparing them for the procedure emotionally. In some cases transplant nurses actively assist doctors during the actual transplant procedure.

Nature Of The Work/Duties

Transplant NursingOne of the main things that you are required to do as a transplant nurse is determine whether or not the patient and the donor are ready for surgery. Firstly you need to determine that both of these patients are in a fit state to undergo surgery. A medical history will be useful here and it will be your job to take that history. Ordering lab tests to find and confirm a donor match are also essential as you cannot simply transplant any organ into any individual. A very specific match must be found for surgery to be performed safely. After your assessment is complete you can clear the patients for surgery and assist in the process. After surgery you will be in charge of caring for the patients until they recover sufficiently to return home.


Employment opportunities as a transplant nurse may be limited as you can only work in those areas where transplants are part of the facilities daily routine. The main places to find a transplant nurse are:

  • Hospitals where transplant surgical procedures are performed on a regular basis.
  • Special facilities and centers aimed at performing research in transplants.
  • In some cases you will be required to visit potential donors or their families as part of your job of sourcing potential organs for transplant procedures.

Becoming a transplant nurse does also require general nursing training, so, technically speaking, you could also be employed in any area where an RN without a specialty in nursing could be employed. This broadens your employment options in the field of health care and nursing considerably.

Transplant Nursing Requirements

There are several requirements that you will need to adhere to when deciding to become a nurse with a specialty in transplant nursing. The first of those requirements is that you need to hold an RN license (which will require the completion of a nursing degree program). In addition you will need experience working as an RN in critical care, in intensive care, or in medical-surgical nursing. So, following the completion of your RN degree you will need to find employment in one of these categories in order to gain the required experience. After achieving the various education levels required and completing the experience quota you will have to apply for, take, and pass the Transplant Nurse Certification exam through the American Board for Transplant Certification. This results in your certification as an expert nurse in transplant nursing.

Personality Traits

Certain personality traits will be more useful than others when it comes to a career in transplant nursing. Some of the more necessary ones are mentioned below:

  • Although it is quite a tall order, you will find this job far easier if you love being busy and you have a natural ability and desire to work hard.
  • Good interpersonal skills are a must as you will meet strangers daily.
  • As with all nursing careers multi-tasking is essential in transplant nursing.
  • Transplant nurses need to have a strong stomach for bodily fluids as they will be required to assist in the operating room.
  • AN ability to do physical labor, such as lifting patients if they fall after surgery, as well as a love for physical labor will be invaluable.

Educational Requirements

To become a transplant nurse you first need to become an RN. In order to enter an RN training program you will need to hold a high school diploma or a GED qualification. It will be helpful if you take subjects such as biology during high school as this will make learning nursing concepts easier. Following high school you need to earn a nursing qualification. This can be a diploma in nursing, an associate’s degree in nursing, or a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Master’s degrees are also possible, but usually these are only necessary for advanced nursing specialties. Passing the NCLEX-RN earns you your RN license and you will then be eligible to write the certification exam in transplant nursing, once you have achieved the relevant amount of work experience as an RN.


There are some fairly basic steps that you can follow in order to receive the RN licensure that is required to work as a transplant nurse:

  • Firstly you must complete an RN training program. This will usually be a degree program that will take you 2 to 4 years to complete and that must be accredited.
  • Once you have completed the program you can apply to your state board of nursing for licensure. Ensure that you are well informed regarding the licensure requirements for your particular state as they can vary significantly.
  • Once your application to be licensed is approved you can set an exam date with Pearson Vue to write the NCLEX-RN exam. This costs $200.
  • Passing the exam earns you your license which then needs to be renewed on a regular basis.

How To Become A Transplant Nurse

Training, Advancement And Other Qualifications

There are a number of opportunities for advancement as a transplant nurse. The three main qualifications in this line of work are to become a Certified Clinical Transplant Coordinator (CCTC), a Certified Procurement Transplant Coordinator (CPTC), or a Certified Clinical Transplant Nurse (CCTN). A CCTN is the role that we have already discussed at some length. A coordinator or a procurement coordinator are more advanced roles in transplant nursing. A procurement coordinator, for example, is involved in souring organs to be used in transplant procedures. This often involves speaking to healthy donors who match the criteria or to terminal patients who are facing death and who may be willing to donate their usable organs after they have passed on. A coordinator in this case is someone in charge of organ transplant facilities.

Source An Accredited Education Program

It is essential that you source an accredited program when looking for a school through which to do your NR degree. If the program is not accredited you will successfully waste both your time and your money on it. There are several sources that will provide you with information on accredited programs:

  • The school itself can provide information regarding is accreditation status
  • Your state board of nursing will have a list of accredited schools, or can provide information on a specific school you are interested in
  • The accrediting associations responsible for accrediting programs will have a reliable list of schools that are accredited
  • Nurses who have successfully passed an accredited program can provide you with information on the various programs that they attended to get where they are at this point

Earn Your Associate’s Degree

Although there are a number of degree options available to you in terms of nursing, one of the more popular options is the associate’s degree because this degree does not take as long as some of the others to complete. There will be a number of schools in your area that offer associate’s programs. Choose the ones that meet your requirements and that are accredited. Apply to all schools that you think are appropriate and that you can afford. The more schools you apply to the better your chances of acceptance are. When the schools get back to you, select the one that you like the most form the options. Attending the program will require hard work and dedication, but once you have made it through the nursing degree you will be able to become licensed as a registered nurse.

Obtain Your Licensure

Once you have obtained your RN license you need to follow these steps to become certified specifically as a transplant nurse:

  • Firstly you will need to complete the required years of experience in an appropriate health care setting.
  • During this time you can take continuing education credits that focus on transplant nursing an engage in the many certification exam preparation programs that are offered both online and offline to prepare for the theory that will make up the transplant nurse certification exam.
  • Pass the Transplant Nurse Certification exam offered by the American Board for Transplant Certification.
  • Passing the exam will make you certified, but this certification must be renewed regularly to remain valid – the certification renewal intervals will be determined by your specific state’s board of nursing.

Online/Distance Education Programs

The study required to be in a position to pass the Transplant Nurse Certification exam can be completed entirely online as it is more of a revision course than a training course. This means that you can prepare for the exam without compromising your current job as an RN. Actual RN training can also be done partially online. However, because this aspect of your training required that you complete clinical as well as theoretical coursework, you will still have to find a facility at which you can get hands-on experience as it is not possible for a nursing degree to be earned entirely online. Online study allows you to work from the comfort of your own home without being tied down by a classroom schedule that could interfere with your work as an LPN.

Job Outlook

There are a number of reasons why transplant nursing has such a strong job outlook at present:

  • Technology is advancing at a rapid rate within the health care industry, meaning that more and more transplant procedures are becoming possible. In addition the number of people requiring the service is also increasing. This means that more nurses with specializations in transplant nursing will be needed to cope with this growing demand for the service.
  • In addition to this there is a projected increase of 26% in the number of job that will be available for general RNs form the year 2012 to the year 2013. As you are required to have general RN training this means that you will be able to work in transplant nursing as well as in general nursing, thereby increasing your employment opportunities in the medical industry significantly.


As a transplant nurse you can expect to earn around $76,522 a year, although this can vary significantly from state to state. The exact salary you earn could even be specific to the city that you work in. Transplant nurses in New York City, for example, tend to earn a little more than nurses in many other cities across the country. The level of education you have can also affect your salary as employers like to see transplant nurses with higher degrees on their staff. Different employers and different industries within the domain of transplant nursing also offer different salaries. When it comes to considering the salary that you will be eligible to earn as a transplant nurse specific research for your area will be needed to form a comprehensive picture.

Transplant nurses earn higher wages than regular RNs. In addition, because they are often restricted to the same hours as surgeons, the working conditions are also considered to be better. The most challenging aspect of the job involves speaking with patients and the families of patients who may be dying about leaving their organs for someone else who can benefit from them more. Keeping the required personality traits in mind, you need to weigh up the various aspects of the job in order to determine whether or not it is the right career for you to choose. If not, there are many other nursing specialties to choose from.

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