Requesting Info about Transplant Nursing

  1. Hello all... I'm not sure if I've posted this in the right place, but...

    I was hoping to find out more about the career path for a transplant nurse. I am planning to enroll in an accelerated BSN program very soon. From what I've read about the specialty, I think it's where I want to end up; I'm just not sure how to get there.

    Since I am coming from a field unrelated to medicine (marketing/communications), I'm unfamiliar with the best route to this area of specialization, so I would appreciate any and all insight you could provide. Thanks in advance for your time and expertise!
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  2. 9 Comments

  3. by   TazziRN
    Do you mean organ procurement or post-transplant care?
  4. by   SherBearRN
    My background prior to nursing was sales and marketing. After graduating from nursing school, I accepted a position on the transplant floor at California Pacific Medical Center as a new grad nurse. The position was on med/surg working with patients who needed kidney, pancreas, and liver transplants. It was a wonderful learning experience!

    You can certainly get into this specialty as a new grad nurse. If you think this is an area you would like to work in, I would suggest working on a transplant unit as a nurse tech or clerk, volunteering your time in that department, or shadowing another nurse.

    Good luck with your program and I wish you the best!
  5. by   cedavid22
    transplant nursing is definitely something you can get into as a new grad. that was my first job. its a very challenging med/surg environment with very sick patients & tons of meds (it may be different elsewhere). i worked on a unit that had liver, kidney, lung, & the occasional heart transplants, so it was a great experience in terms of learning all the systems. they get tons of meds, so its also a great experience in learning a variety of meds & multitasking. also, after a couple of yrs., you can become a certified transplant nurse.

    the best way to get there is most likely through a big city, teaching hospital, because not all hospitals have comprehensive transplant units. the one's i know offhand are mount sinai & columbia presbyterian in NYC. & most likely UCLA in LA & john's hopkins in baltimore. i believe smaller hospitals either spread out their transplant patients, have only 1 or two types of transplants (such as kidney & liver) on a unit, or transfer them to bigger hospitals. i don't know if all hospitals require experience, i'm sure you won't have any trouble getting a job on a transplant unit. its not exactly in demand. to get experience, you can become a nurse extern, aide, or clerk on a transplant unit. just ask HR. if you have any other questions, let me know. good luck!
  6. by   TazziRN
    Don't know what state the OP is in, but in CA Stanford and UCSF also have strong transplant programs. Alta Bates used to do kidneys but I don't think they do any longer.
  7. by   L&DRNJenn
    Transplant nursing was my first job too. I did it for 3 years. I interviewed for a few positions in med-surg and it seemed the most interesting. It is certainly a specialty, but you will see many different diagnoses and complications. So it is very well rounded. I worked with kidney, liver and pancreas transplants. Primarily post transplant after the ICU and they don't stay in the ICU for very long at all. We treated a lot of rejection. We had failed transplants who were back on the list, very sick and waiting. Patients on dialysis. There are a ton of meds. It was very rewarding. I would have gotten my transplant certification if my sights weren't set on labor and delivery. I worked in Charlotte NC and Dallas TX.
    I would suggest looking at hospitals in your area with transplant programs.
    Good luck!
  8. by   HeatherB,CST
    I am a Surgical Tech student, and also very interested in working with transplant patients. Duke University and Wake Forest University Med Ctrs both have big, booming transplant departments, and they're both in central NC. (which is a beautiful place to live, BTW) My brother had a kidney/pancreas at Wake Forest, and I noticed that the nursing staff seemed pretty darn happy to be doing what they do. It must be very rewarding to see your patients improve as drastically as many do post-transplant.
  9. by   EGKB
    Quote from TazziRN
    Do you mean organ procurement or post-transplant care?
    I'm not sure yet. I'm hoping to get exposure to both areas and make my decision from there.

    I'm so glad to learn that I can start out in that area as a new graduate; I would definitely seek certification and pursue a master's in the area as soon as I could.

    Thanks to everyone for the information and advice - I appreciate it!
  10. by   TazziRN
    I don't think procurement will take a new grad, but post-transplant care would. Best wishes, I think you're choosing a terrific area of nursing to get into!
  11. by   core0
    Quote from EGKB
    I'm not sure yet. I'm hoping to get exposure to both areas and make my decision from there.

    I'm so glad to learn that I can start out in that area as a new graduate; I would definitely seek certification and pursue a master's in the area as soon as I could.

    Thanks to everyone for the information and advice - I appreciate it!
    There are three areas that transplant uses RN's in generally. Transplant floors in larger hospitals are a good way to start and generally how RN's get into transplant. Most of them want a year of med/surg prior to hiring. Very larger programs such as Pitt have a transplant ICU also.

    The backbone of the transplant program is the transplant coordinators. These are RN's that handle the day to day interaction with the patients. They maintain phone contact and keep the patient updated on their status. They are also key in assessing new patient. This is a very detail oriented job. I deal mostly in liver transplant, but I think that all the nurses where I work came from a transplant floor nurse or oncology floor nurse background.

    The third place that RN's are used is with the OPO's (organ procurement organizations). These positions do not have to be RN but a lot of the OPO's use them. You do not do the organ harvest, instead the OPO's are the coordinators for the organs. They identify suitable organs and contact the accepting programs with information as well as manage the regional list. I really do not know what the experience is here since I rarely deal with them directly.

    Finally I am somewhat suprised that allnurses.com doesn't have a transplant nursing forum under specialty nursing.

    Here is information on the ITNS:
    http://itns.org/

    Also if you google transplant nursing there is some good descriptions of nursing positions such as this:
    http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/trans...ntnursing.html

    David Carpenter, PA-C

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