In the United States alone, there have been more than 617,000 organ transplants since 1988 while over 123,000 Americans are currently on the waiting list for a lifesaving organ transplant. In all of these cases, an organ procurement nurse is a critical member of the transplant team.
What Is an Organ Procurement Nurse?
Emphasis must first be made that there are several job titles for an organ procurement nurse, such as organ transplant coordinator, transplant nurse coordinator, and specialist nurse for organ donation, among others.
Regardless of the designation, an organ procurement nurse usually has a senior clinical background including the appropriate education, training, and work experience in emergency medicine and/or intensive care. Basically, an organ transplant nurse provides patients with the critical nursing care as donors or recipient of organs before, during and after transplantation surgery.
Aside from patient care and management, an organ procurement nurse will also provide support, guidance, and information to the families of both the donor and recipient of the organs in coordination with the members of a critical care team.
Many of these specialist nurses will even have an active role in the effective and efficient management of the organ donation process, such as inpatient assessment, authorization for donation, and logistics.
What Do They Do?
The roles and responsibilities of organ procurement nurses include but are limited to:
- Identify potential tissue and organ donors in coordination with clinical care teams;
- Work with the clinical care teams to ensure the identification and creation of relevant pathways in organ donation including referrals of potential donors;
- Assist the critical care team including surgeons, specialist nurses, and anesthesiologists during the operation;
- Perform potential donor audits particularly for patients 75 years old and under who died in emergency rooms or intensive care units;
- Provide teaching and education sessions for a wide range of cohorts including medical and nursing staff, clinical staff in emergency departments, operating theaters, and intensive care units, undergraduate and post-graduate nursing students, and police, coroners, and other legal personnel;
- Deliver specialized care in the protection, promotion, and rehabilitation of donors’ and recipients’ health including the detection, prevention, treatment and rehabilitation of patients with health issues, which can affect the organ transplants’ success;
- Plan, implement and evaluate actions related to the optimization of the donation;
- Apply nursing care systemization procedures in all phases of the transplant process to the recipients and their families from the pre-transplant to post-transplant process.
- Deliver evidence-based care that can be integrated into the research on nursing clinical practice and its improved quality;
- Help in increasing awareness about the urgent need for tissue and organ donations in the community including among friends, family and colleagues as well as the general public;
The bottom line: Organ procurement nurses focus their knowledge, skills, and attention on patient safety, health education, and care effectiveness, all in the pursuit in contributing to the success of organ and tissue transplants.
Where They Work
Organ transplant nurses usually work in healthcare facilities where organ transplants are performed. These include major hospitals, specialist clinics, and ambulatory surgical units. Bear in mind that each healthcare facility will have a set of specific roles and responsibilities for its organ procurement nurses.
How Much They Make
The compensation packages (e.g., salary, insurance, and bonuses) for organ procurement nurses vary depending on factors like level of education, type of training, and years of experience as well as industry, company size, and location. As of 2015, the median expected annual pay for the occupation is $81,400 in the United States.
How to Become an Organ Procurement Nurse
Due to the specialized nature of the job, an individual aspiring to be an organ procurement nurse should be a registered nurse with at least two years of clinical experience and at least a year of direct dealings with transplant patients.
With the background in nursing education, training and work experience, enrollment in a transplant certification degree course followed by a certification examination is possible. The American Board for Transplant Certification provides qualified individuals with the Certified Clinical Transplant Nurse (CCTN) examination.
Many employers of organ transplant nurses also require master’s degrees or even doctoral degrees. The degree programs should focus on medical-surgical nursing, transplant nursing, intensive nursing, and critical care nursing.
What Else Can You Expect
Organ procurement nurses are in a profession that challenges the mind in the mental and emotional aspects. It should be noted that 21 people, on average, die daily from the insufficient supply of organs for transplant, which translates to over 6,500 deaths of candidates on the waiting list every year.
The emotional and mental toll of seeing patients and their families suffer while waiting for the organs increase the risks for mental stress, physical fatigue, and burnout.
Despite these drawbacks, becoming an organ procurement nurse is an viable career option because of the financial and non-financial benefits (i.e., the opportunity to help the patients and their families get a new lease on life).
What Kind Of Nursing Organizations Are Associated With It?
Organ procurement nurses usually belong to the American Nursing Association; the Academy of Medical-Surgical Nurses; and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses.
Organ procurement nurses can also become rehabilitation nurses, surgical nurses, and critical care nurses.