An in depth look at the role of a transplant nurse – Part 1

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Organ transplantation involves a diverse range of proficiencies and as a transplant nurse you will often be entrusted with handling all of these responsibilities. Not only are you expected to be adept at basic nursing duties, but you should also be able to act as a supporter, educator and patient advocate for your patients and their families. In your role as a transplant nurse, you are also expected to be familiar with all procedures and formalities in the operating room and be proficient in life saving techniques.

Pre-surgery responsibilities of a transplant nurse

Gap Medics students ready for surgery! As a transplant nurse, one of the first duties you are likely to be faced with is doing an extensive evaluation of the transplant patient. This task would typically involve conducting a complete physical examination and studying the patient’s medical history. This information would help you determine, along with the physician and surgeon, if a patient might be a good candidate for organ transplantation or not. You would also be required to take blood and tissue samples, which would be used to identify the best organ-match or best donor-match.

You would also be responsible for educating patients and their loved ones on the process of organ transplantation, how to get on the organ donation waiting list, how the waiting list works, what happens when a matching organ is found and what they can expect before, during and after the procedure. Equally important, patients need to be taught about what they should and should not do in the interim period and how to care for themselves so that they are healthy enough to undergo the surgery when a suitable organ is found.

Waiting for a suitable organ can often take a considerable amount of time. While waiting for suitable organs, transplant patients still need a great deal of care. During this time, transplant nurses are often the primary caregivers. They may make sure that the patients are taking all medications correctly, keeping their appointments for regular check-ups and meticulously following all advice related to lifestyle changes. These nurses are also often responsible for overseeing other essential treatment procedures that the patient may need, such as dialysis.

When the organ is being obtained from a living donor, it is crucial that the living donor’s blood and tissue types are an almost perfect match to the patients or else the chances are high that the transplant patient will reject the organ. This usually means that only a close relative can qualify as a living donor. Transplant nurses are responsible for determining if a living donor is acceptable and a good candidate for donation by testing their blood and tissue types and doing other necessary examinations.

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