Patients who need a heart transplant will interact with many people along the way.
In addition to the physicians who prepare the patient for their new organ, Cedars-Sinai heart transplant coordinators are there to help guide patients through the entire journey.
To learn more about the role of a heart transplant coordinator, we chatted with nurse and transplant coordinator Nicole Ransbottom, who moved to LA 6 years ago from the East Coast.
I wanted to find something that would combine my knowledge of cardiac surgery as well as my desire to connect with patients more long-term.
What does a heart transplant coordinator do?
Nicole: The heart transplant coordinator’s role is to provide support and education to the patient before, during, and after their heart transplant. I’ve been doing this at Cedars-Sinai for 2 years now, and before that I worked in the ICU for 4 years.
The Cedars-Sinai Heart Transplant Program is a trailblazer for the procedure in the United States and around the world.
What is your favorite part of the job?
Nicole: For me, the best part of this job is seeing patients who get a second chance at life and can walk back into the clinic and give me a hug. It’s just absolutely mind-blowing—because it doesn’t always happen that way and donors are a scarce resource.
Some patients wait longer than others for a donor, and some don’t make it. But a lot of them do, and they go on to live the best life that they can for themselves. That looks a little bit different for every patient, but it’s great to see.
What does an average day look like?
Nicole: I’m currently working in pre-heart transplant—which means getting patients ready to be put on the list for a heart transplant. I make sure that they’re both healthy enough to undergo such a large surgery and sick enough to need a transplant.
When I’m working in the post-transplant area, we go around with the physicians to make sure that the patients have everything they need before they’re ready to go home—education, medication, etc.
We also do clinic 3 days a week where we see the patients after their surgeries. The doctor will assess them and make sure they’re doing well and the coordinator will make sure that the patient knows everything they need to know about taking care of themselves after the transplant.
In the Newsroom: What It’s Like to Be on the Heart Transplant Team
What inspired you to pursue this career?
Nicole: Before this, I was working in the cardiac surgery ICU. I wanted to find something that would combine my knowledge of cardiac surgery as well as my desire to connect with patients more long-term and educate them throughout the process.
What’s your favorite thing to do when you’re off the clock?
I’m a big runner—I like to run half and full marathons. I got obsessed with that after college, when I challenged myself to get back in shape after the stress of being in school.
I’m also part of a book club and we meet every 6 weeks to discuss all kinds of books. It’s a lot of fun to meet up with a big group of 15 women and have wine, dinner, and dessert.
I also love to listen to audiobooks—psychological thrillers are my favorite.
What would do for a living if you weren’t a heart transplant coordinator?
Nicole: I think I’d want to do something more on the creative side—maybe a cosmetologist, stylist, or nail tech.
What’s your favorite hidden LA spot?
Nicole: The Coop Pizza in Culver City. It’s the only pizza I’ve had here that tastes like a real East Coast pizza.
What excites you about the future?
Nicole: The opportunity for change and improvement.
I feel like people are becoming more open-minded. We’re starting to talk to each other more and have harder conversations. I think it’s important to grow as a society and I hope that will continue—we’ll all become a little better.