Transplant Nursing Coordinator

A transplant nurse works with patients who are either recipients of organ transplants or the donors. A transplant nurse coordinator takes this job to a slightly higher level, working as part of a team to help coordinate a transplant from either a living or deceased donor. They usually work on either the procurement side, which deals with obtaining the organs, or on the clinical side, dealing with the actual transplant and the recipient. They may work together with the physicians, the nurses who have been tending the patient, the patients’ families, or the hospital chaplain. In procurement, for instance, they could get a call that a patient is critically wounded, not likely to survive, and this nurse will come in to assess the situation, comfort the family, and gently explore the option of organ donation with them. They can also work with the potential recipients, evaluating them through stringent pre-transplant tests that include blood work, an electrocardiogram, endoscopy, x-rays, or ultrasounds. They can work as patient advocates, and patient educators. They are also the contact person for patients awaiting a transplant. Their roles are varied, and can focus on all aspects of transplant nursing.

To get started, you should find out which nursing educational path is right for you. Most transplant nurse coordinators have a bachelor’s degree, and many have a master’s, but you could always start out with an associate degree. An associate of science in nursing (ASN) or an associate degree in nursing (AND) only requires two years, and the credits can be applied toward a four-year degree later. A bachelor of science in nursing requires four years of study from a college or university, but will likely garner you a higher starting salary and more job prospects. Magnet hospitals require their nurses to hold a BSN. After earning a degree from an accredited nursing program, passing the state’s board of nursing licensure exam (called the NCLEX-RN) will get you licensed and legally ready to work as a nurse in your state. Many nurses who work as transplant coordinators have some experience in the ICU or in emergency nursing. Curriculum courses focusing on transplant nursing would also help you get started, whether you pursue them at the undergraduate level or as continuing education. Core curriculum for transplant nursing covers information on transplants for liver, kidney, heart, lung, and pancreas transplantation. It will also cover infectious and non-infectious complications, transplant immunology, pharmacology, ethical issues, and patient education and advocacy.

Transplant Nurse Certification

Continuing education is an important part of working in medicine, as research is always being done and medicine is always evolving. Unlike earning your degree and license, certification is voluntary and not legally required. However it is also a prudent step because more and more employers are beginning to require it. Earning certification shows that you are committed to your field, and that your nursing skills and knowledge are on par with national standards and up-to-date with the latest developments. You can become certified as a Certified Clinical Transplant Nurse (CCTN), or a CPTC (Certified Procurement Transplant Coordinator) or CCTC (Certified Clinical Transplant Coordinator). This involves passing the certification exam given by the American Board for Transplant Certification (ABTC). In order to be eligible to take the CCTN test, you must have worked for two years as a registered nurse, twelve months of which must involve working directly with organ transplant patients. In order to be eligible for the procurement coordinator or the clinical transplant coordinator exams, you will need to have twelve months of clinical vascular organ work experience. You will also have to recertify every three years by retaking this exam. While this is a big commitment, it will boost your salary, skills, and confidence in your abilities.

The International Transplant Nurses Society (ITNS) is the premier professional nurse’s organization for this specialty. It can be a good resource for networking and finding out about conferences, continuing education opportunities, as well as jobs opportunities. According to salaryexpert.com, the average salary for a transplant nurse coordinator in large cities can range from $$80,490 in Atlanta, to $88,359 in Chicago to $112,796 in Boston. The job’s outlook is also very good, as specialized nurses with additional training will continue to be in demand, as nursing jobs grow at a great pace, and medicine becomes even more specialized. This job can potentially be very emotionally demanding and stressful, and it requires a lot of education. However the pay and outlook are very good, and it is bound to be very emotionally rewarding as the work literally saves lives. The first step is to get started on your nursing degree.

(Sources: ITNS- International Transplant Nurses Society, ABTC – American Board for Transplant Certification, The organization for transplant professionals)

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