Cindy Lawrence, MSN, BSN, RN
With 37 years as a coordinator, Lawrence is Duke’s longest tenured transplant coordinator. “When I began, the position was a relatively new role. We were not even called coordinators,” she says. Lawrence began her transplant career with the kidney program in 1985, and was one of two nurses with advanced training supporting both heart and lung transplant teams in 1992, which was the year Duke started its lung transplant program. This year, approximately 16 coordinators work around-the-clock supporting lung transplant alone.
“The growth in our transplant programs at Duke has been phenomenal,” Lawrence remembers. “Now we have teams of coordinators who focus on a single phase of the transplant process.”
“Some focus on living donors, others on pre-transplant processes while another group monitors the patient after transplant,” Lawrence says. “In each of these phases, we maintain communication with the families while coordinating care with other hospital clinicians.”
As a new graduate nurse in 1980, Lawrence came to Duke to get tertiary care experience but was immediately attracted to the transplant coordinator role. “I was a brand new nurse, but I was bitten by the transplant bug right away. The benefits that transplant offered for patients were very clear. I was fascinated with the role and began to move in that direction – and never looked back!”
Judy Smith, BSN, RN, CCTC
As coordinator responsibilities grew, transplant physicians relied increasingly on those individuals to help in transplant assessment, preparation, and monitoring following the procedure.
“Doctors rely on us to look at lab results and help to identify and report abnormal results,” says Smith, who is a certified transplant coordinator. “We are expected to assist and help problem solve solutions and then to educate the patient and family in the plan/solution”
“What we really worry about early in transplant is whether a patient is experiencing a rejection episode. The more quickly you act when that occurs, the better chances of saving the organ.”
Both Lawrence and Smith emphasize the collaboration among many teams of specialists that guides transplant assessment and care, requiring contributions from transplant-trained nutritionists, psychologists, and others. Living donor advocates play an important role as well, Smith adds.
“During our multi-disciplinary listing conferences, when we are reviewing patients on the wait list, we have contributions from everyone on the team, and everyone’s concerns are taken into account,” Smith says. “It’s a career that provides a great sense of satisfaction. After 45 years of nursing, the last 19 years spent in transplant have been the most rewarding.”