March 4, 2005

Symposium looks at nurse practitioners’ growing role in transplant patient care

Featured Image

Kathy Boyd, left, and Haley Hoy, both nurse practitioners with the Vanderbilt lung transplant team, talk with Aaron Milstone, M.D., medical director of the lung transplant team, during the Transplant Nurse Practitioner Symposium held last week.
photo by Anne Rayner

Symposium looks at nurse practitioners’ growing role in transplant patient care

Vanderbilt's Transplant Center and the School of Nursing are celebrating the success of the first-ever Transplant Nurse Practitioner Symposium.

The conference was held last week at the Marriott at Vanderbilt to address and advance the complex clinical management of transplant patients by nurse practitioners. Haley Hoy, one of two lung transplant nurse practitioners at VUMC and a Ph.D. student at VUSN, chaired the steering committee. She said the event was the first of its kind for nurse practitioners in the country. “It's just such a new role. I don't think there was anything out there. We identified a need,” said Hoy. Nearly 100 people from 19 states attended the two-day symposium from centers such as the Cleveland Clinic, Duke, Johns Hopkins, and the Mayo Clinic.

Hoy said the role of nurse practitioners in treating transplant patients is an emerging field and requires unique educational needs that this conference sought to address. “Managing co-morbidities such as hypertension, diabetes and osteoporosis is very different for the transplant patient. Because they are immunocompromised, the medical management itself is very different in the transplant population,” Hoy said.

She said the use of nurse practitioners among transplant patients varies around the country. “Some centers use them in an expanded transplant coordinator role, others use them in an inpatient capacity and others use them in outpatient clinic follow-up. The role is still evolving, so people are doing things differently.”

Terri Donaldson, R.N., who has a master of nursing degree, is director of the transplant subspecialty in the acute care nurse practitioner program at VUSN, which has officially been offered for two years. She and six students enrolled in the subspecialty focus at VUSN attended the conference. “There's not a lot of formal education programs for nurse practitioners interested in transplantation,” said Donaldson. She said VUSN is one of only a few nursing programs nationwide to offer a formal curriculum in the subspecialty.

Colleen Conway-Welch, Ph.D., Nancy and Hilliard Travis professor and Dean of the School of Nursing, said the Transplant Center at VUMC has been instrumental in helping VUSN offer students hands-on experience in the field. “There is a real partnership developing between the Transplant Center and the School of Nursing. There is obviously great interest among nurses to look at the transplant specialty, as evidenced by the overwhelming response and attendance at the conference,” said Conway-Welch.

C. Wright Pinson, M.D., director of the Transplant Center and associate vice chancellor for Clinical Affairs, agreed that the event was a successful collaboration between the Schools of Medicine and Nursing as well as VUMC overall. “There has been a wonderful history of multidisciplinary effort in transplantation here. The transplant nurses have always taken an important leadership role in our practice, driving advances in patient care pathways, coordinating daily care and championing education. The new advanced practice program and this symposium are both as a result of this collaborative practice and the admirable transplant nursing leadership,” said Pinson.

Other topics covered in the conference included the history of transplantation, transplant immunology, transplant infectious disease, transplant pharmacology, lipids management and oncology/dermatology. Organizers say given the overwhelming positive audience evaluation they are already making plans to hold another educational symposium for nurse practitioners caring for transplant patients next year.