Nephrology nurses specialize in assisting patients struggling with kidney disease. The treatment of kidney disease is relatively new in the medical industry. During the 1970’s, the federal government began funding research to improve treatment for end stage kidney disease (ESRD). As a result, improvements in hemodialysis, kidney transplantation, and peritoneal dialysis have occurred, resulting in more demand for nephrology nurses.
Nephrology nurses specialize in preventative care and patient assessment. Many patients with kidney disease require life-long medical treatments. Numerous opportunities nationwide are available for nephrology nurses.
Nephrology nurses must possess generalized medical knowledge to care for elderly, adult, adolescent, and child patients struggling with kidney disease. Nephrology nurses can fill the following positions:
- Staff nurse
- Peritoneal and hemodialysis dialysis nurse
- Nurse manager
- Vascular assessment, transplant, and organ recovery coordinator
- Nurse practitioner
- Pharmaceutical specialist
- Clinical nurse specialist
- Quality management specialist
- Nurse educator and researcher
This specialty can be very complex since patients with kidney disease often struggle with other health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, infectious and bone disease, hypertension, and mental health problems. Nephrology nurses teach patients how to improve their health and other aspects of their social and professional lives while living with kidney disease. Although it would seem that people with kidney disease rely on transplants or dialysis, most kidney diseases can be cured, managed, and treated. Kidney disease patients frequently rely on palliative treatments. When patients select these treatments, nephrology nurses are responsible for teaching patients about other treatments and potential for improvement.
Nephrology nurses are employed at dialysis clinics, doctors’ offices, hospitals, transplant centers, and numerous other medical clinics. Many also work for home healthcare companies and primary, tertiary, and secondary care clinics. They treat patients struggling with kidney disease and those with symptoms.
Nephrology nurses employed at inpatient clinics typically treat patients with serious kidney problems, while those at outpatient facilities work in teams with doctors and other medical specialists to treat patients with complicated needs. In these settings, nephrology nurses can be hired as nurse educators, care coordinators, and supervisors responsible for overseeing patients considered chronically ill. Nephrology nurses are important members of kidney disease treatment teams. Other opportunities in this field include:
- Staff and case management
- Pediatric nephrology
- Advanced practice
- Hospital administration
Numerous specialties exist within the field of nephrology nursing. The following are a few examples:
- Peritoneal dialysis
- Conservative management
- Continuous renal replacement therapy
- Other extracorporeal therapies
Nephrology nurses also develop skills enabling them to practice in other areas as well. For example, nephrology nurses specializing in transplants often treat patients who’ve received other types of organ transplants.
Nephrology nurses must obtain the necessary education to become licensed as registered nurses and complete clinical training to care for patients with kidney disease beyond what a general nursing education provides. Nephrology nurses with advanced skills and knowledge hold master’s degrees and have satisfied the necessary requirements to become a clinical nurse specialist. Regardless of specialty and position, every nephrology nurse is trained to treat children, adults and elderly patients struggling with kidney disease. All nephrology nurses are knowledgeable in the following subjects:
- Pathophysiology, physiology, and anatomy
- Basic nursing procedures
- Renal replacement therapy for patients in various phases of kidney disease
- Pharmacotherapy and pharmacology
- Learning theory and teaching
- Growth and development
- Working in teams with other specialists
- Conducting effective interviews
- Patient rehabilitation
- Research procedures
- Palliative care and assisting terminally ill patients
Nephrology nurses work in teams with other medical specialists to provide overall patient care. In addition to patient care, nephrology nurses teach patients how to care for their kidney disease, access available resources, and live independently. Frequently, nephrology nurses are assigned to manage groups of nurses that provide the direct patient care. They are also required to receive continuing education, undergo professional reviews, and evaluate clinical research conducted in this field. While treating patients and executing other job responsibilities, nephrology nurses must adhere to the Standards of Nephrology Nursing Practice.
Nephrology nurses are kidney disease specialists who’re licensed as registered nurses. To remain informed about new technology and medical procedures, nephrology nurses receive continuing education by attending seminars, reading scholarly journals, and participating in additional training. Every year, the American Nephrology Nurses’ Association sponsors a fall meeting and national seminar for nephrology nurses.
Additionally, this organization sponsors leadership and legislative seminars, audio conferences, online training courses, and multiple chapter programs. To enhance their job opportunities and earning potential, nephrology nurses often become certified with the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission. Certified nurses have advanced skills and knowledge in nephrology.