National Donate Life Month: Meet Our Awesome Transplant Nurses

National Donate Life Month
National Donate Life Month

By Nora Billodeaux, MSN, RN

Education Specialist, Department of Education

Methodist Dallas Medical Center

Many say that nursing is one of the most honored careers to have. Nurses care for patients and their families both in and out of the clinical setting, and transplant nurses care for patients in all stages of the transplant process. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019), there are 75,000 people actively waiting for an organ but only around 8,000 deceased organ donors yearly. In 2016 alone, there were 30,973 transplants performed in the U.S., a 5 percent increase from the prior year (Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network, 2016). Transplant patients need qualified transplant nurses to care for them. And transplant nurses need special skills.

Transplant nurses: a rare breed

At Methodist Dallas Medical Center, there are about 50 nurses who work on the transplant unit and many more in the intensive care unit and outpatient clinics. Because April is National Donate Life Month, I asked six of these nurses — two novice nurses, two expert nurses, a transplant coordinator, and a transplant manager — to share their opinions on organ donation and on being a transplant nurse.

All six nurses referred to organ donation as a gift or an opportunity for a new life. They also expressed a desire for more people to understand organ donation. The more donors we have, the more people receive transplants. Transplant nurses have a great appreciation for people who donate an organ because it takes bravery and compassion to do so.

What it takes

These nurses identified must-haves for being a transplant nurse. These include patience, passion, empathy, organization, kindness, respect, clinical competence, good communication, and a love for learning. Sometimes transplant nurses face special challenges with patient care. Their empathy and their desire to do what’s best for patients makes it hard to emotionally manage those patients who are not compliant. It’s just as difficult to share the emotional pain of patients who do not meet the criteria for a transplant or whose bodies reject the transplant. Like many other specialized nurses, these nurses can experience burnout, but they push through day after day.

The joys that come with the job

Despite the challenges, Methodist Dallas transplant nurses like what they do. Coordinators enjoy being the first to tell patients that an organ has been found for them. They also love being the ones who patients call with concerns and questions after their transplant. Floor nurses find happiness preparing their patients for transplant surgery and caring for them throughout their hospital stay. They share in the joy of their patients’ transformations from critically ill to recovering and getting another chance at life. The bond they have with patients and their families is priceless and cherished.

What they need to hear

Transplant nurses at Methodist Dallas — floor nurses, managers, coordinators, and nurse practitioners — are empathetic, efficient, caring, competent, and happy in their careers. They have cared for many transplant patients and continue to do so with courage and resilience. As we at Methodist Dallas celebrate organ donation and transplant nurses this month, we want all transplant nurses to know that, on behalf of all the people whose lives they’ve helped save, we join them in saying “Thank You.”

If you’re looking for an organization that is committed to the highest standards of care and want to be part of a team of exceptional transplant nurses who love their careers, consider Methodist Health System. Visit us at Jobs.MethodistHealthSystem.org.

© Methodist Health System

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