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Transplant nurses play a crucial role before, during, and after organ transplant procedures. They work with patients who are donating tissues or organs (donors), and those receiving the transplant (recipients).
Becoming a transplant nurse takes approximately four years or longer. The job outlook is good, with a 9% projected growth rate in opportunities for transplant nurses from 2020 to 2030, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
Learn more about the job duties, workplace settings, and average salary of a transplant nurse. In this guide, discover which skills and educational/licensure requirements you need to become a transplant nurse.
What Does a Transplant Nurse Do?
A transplant nurse is an integral part of the transplant team, having more direct contact with the patient than any other team member. Specific job duties include administering medications, preparing patients for surgery, and optimizing the health of transplant recipients.
Transplant nurses provide extensive patient support and teaching on every step in the transplant process.
There are various types of transplant surgeries, including organs (e.g., kidneys), or other body parts or tissues (e.g., bone marrow or stem cell transplants). Each type of transplant surgery requires transplant nurses to have a different knowledge base and perform unique job duties.
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Key responsibilities for transplant nurses include:
- Coordinating care for organ recipients and living donors
- Ensuring organs are a correct match
- Supporting the recipient in maintaining a healthy lifestyle while waiting for a donor
- Educating and prepare living donors and recipients for surgery
- Assisting the transplant team during surgery and providing surgery aftercare
Career traits important for transplant nurses include:
- Exemplary communication/teaching skills
- Strong interpersonal skills
- Ability to work well as part of a multidisciplinary team
- Being able to work long hours
- Coping skills for physical and emotional stress and fatigue
- Having a strong sense of patient advocacy
Where Do Transplant Nurses Work?
Transplant nurses commonly work in hospital operating rooms. A transplant nurse may also work in hospital post-op/recovery units, ambulatory surgery centers, or special organ transplant facilities.
Transplant nurses work closely with other members of the multidisciplinary team (e.g., doctors, nurses, nutritionists, surgical technologists, etc).
How to Become a Transplant Nurse
A registered nurse (RN) licensure is a requirement for transplant nurses; this includes RNs graduating from accredited two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN) programs and those with four-year bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degrees.
Once students complete either an ADN or BSN program, they must pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) to become a licensed RN.
An advanced practice RN (APRN) designation, such as a certified nurse practitioner, also qualifies to work as a transplant nurse. Transplant nurse practitioners provide transplant waitlist management care, and, like RNs, they care for patients during the pre-transplant, post-transplant, and perioperatively (i.e. during surgery).
There are special fellowship programs, such as those offered at Mayo Clinic's Nurse Practitioner or Physician Assistant Abdominal Organ Transplant Fellowship, that certify NPs as experts in organ transplants.
After passing the NCLEX-RN, nurse graduates need clinical experience. The on-the-job experience involves working as a surgical nurse, in the postoperative/recovery unit, or working in clinical areas such as medical/surgical units.
These careers can provide experience in getting patients ready for surgery and caring for them after they undergo a procedure.
Some employers may require specialized certification called a Certified Clinical Transplant Nurse (CCTN). This credential, offered by the American Board for Transplant Certification, demonstrates an RNs knowledge and skills in monitoring and educating transplant patients before and after their transplant procedure.
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How Much Do Transplant Nurses Make?
The job outlook for RNs, including transplant nurses is good; the BLS projects increased growth of 9% in the field from 2020-2030.
According to the BLS, the average yearly salary for RNs is $71,000. Payscale data from July 2022 reports the average hourly rate for RNs with medical/surgical experience is $31.40 per hour, with a total annual pay range from $52,000 - $92,000.
The clinical setting, an RN’s level of experience, and whether a nurse holds CCTN certification, are all factors that can impact a transplant nurse’s earning potential.
Frequently Asked Questions about Transplant Nurses
How long does it take to become a transplant nurse?
It takes 2-4 years to get a registered nurse license. After licensure, most employers require two years of bedside experience in a field such as medical/surgical nursing. Some employers may require a Certified Clinical Transplant Nurse (CCTN) credential.
Certification time varies. RNs must meet the minimum qualifications (e.g., 24 months of nursing experience and 12 months caring for transplant patients), apply to take the exam, study for the test, and wait for results.
What's the difference between a transplant nurse and a perioperative nurse?
A perioperative nurse works in the operating room, assisting with various surgical procedures. A transplant nurse often assists during transplant surgery, but does many other jobs as well; these include intensive patient teaching, and caring for patients before and after transplant surgery.
What do transplant nurses do?
Transplant nurses work closely with the transplant team to prepare living donors and recipients for transplant surgery. They also provide care during and after surgery, educating patients and family members on the procedure, risks, expected outcome, self-care after discharge, and more.
What is a transplant nurse practitioner?
Transplant nurse practitioners provide care during all stages of a transplant procedure. In most states, nurse practitioners can prescribe treatments and medications under the supervision of an MD.
Page Last Reviewed: Aug. 9, 2022
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