Nephrology Nurse

Nephrology is a nursing speciality that focuses on assisting and caring for individuals suffering from kidney disease. Historically, medical practice and nursing has not directly addressed the issue of kidney disease. During the 1970's, the United States federal government started funding research to improve diagnosis and treatment of end state kidney disease (ESRD). Consequently, improvements in kidney transplants, peritoneal dialysis, and hemodialysis have taken place and the demand for nephrology nurses has grown.

Nephrology nurses focus on preventative care, patient assessment, and direct patient care. Many of those suffering from kidney disease end up requiring medical treatments and assisted care for the rest of their lives. There are career opportunities for qualified nephrology nurses throughout the United States.

The Role of the Nephrology Nurse

Nephrology nurses are required to have both a general medical knowledge and specialized skill set to care for those afflicted with kidney disease. Nephrology nurses are commonly found fulfilling the following nursing positions:

  • Peritoneal and hemodialysis dialysis nurse
  • Nurse manager
  • Vascular access, transplant, and organ recovery coordinator
  • Staff nurse
  • Nurse practitioner
  • Clinical nurse specialist
  • Pharmaceutical specialist
  • Quality anagement specialist
  • Nurse educator and researcher
Nephrology can be a complex nursing specialty since so many people with kidney disease also suffer from a myriad of related health conditions, including diabetes, bone disease, infections, heart disease, hypertension, and mental health issues. In addition to direct patient care, nephrology nurses are responsible for educating their patients, teaching them how to improve their health, and how to manage other aspects of their lives while living with kidney disease. While many of the inflicted rely on transplants or dialysis, most do not. The majority of those with kidney disease are able to find a cure, manage the disease or find adequate treatment options. Kidney disease patients often rely on palliative type treatments. When patients select the palliative route to treatment, nephrology nurses are responsible for making sure that patients are aware of all other treatment options.

Work Setting

Nephrology nurses typically work in physicians' offices, hospitals, dialysis clinics, transplant centers, as well as a variety of other healthcare clinics. Many nephrology nurses are also employed by home healthcare organizations and primary, tertiary, and secondary care clinics. Nephrology nurses care for those with kidney disease as well as those who exhibit symptoms.

Nephrology nurses employed by outpatient facilities typically work with medical teams to treat patients' ongoing, and sometimes quite complicated, healthcare needs. Nurses working in inpatient clinics frequently treat patients with serious, sometimes critical, kidney problems. In these settings, nephrology nurses function as direct care providers, care coordinators, nurse educators, and nurse supervisors who are responsible for managing the care of the chronically ill.

Other career opportunities as a nephrology nurse can be found in the following:

  • Staff and case management
  • Education
  • Pediatric nephrology
  • Research
  • Hospital administration
  • Advanced practice

Nephrology Nursing Specialties

There are several specialties within the field of nephrology nursing. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Transplantation
  • Hemodialysis
  • Conservative management
  • Renal replacement therapy
  • Peritoneal dialysis Hemodialysis
  • Various extracorporeal therapies

It is not uncommon to find nephrology nurses, especially specialists, working in other areas of nursing as well. For example, a nephrology nurse who has an expertise in organ transplant may be involved in the treatment of patients with other conditions who require transplants.

Education and Training

For starters, those wanting to pursue a career in nephrology nursing must become licensed registered nurses. To become a registered nurse you must earn an associate's degree in nursing (ADN/ASN) or bachelor's of science in nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited nursing program. You must then sit for the NCLEX® examination to qualify for licensure as a Registered Nurse. In addition, beyond the training provided via a formal education, nephrology nurses must completed clinical training for patients with kidney disease. Many nephrology nurses pursue a master's of science in nursing (MSN) degree and develop advanced skills and knowledge that qualify them to become clinical nurse specialists.

Nephrology nurses develop knowlege and expertise in the following areas:

  • Physiology and anatomy
  • Basic nursing procedures
  • Food and Nutrition
  • Pharmacotherapy and pharmacology
  • Renal replacement therapy for patients in various phases of kidney disease
  • Learning theory and teaching
  • Working in teams with other healthcare specialists
  • Conducting patient interviews
  • Physical rehabilitation
  • Research procedures
  • Palliative care and assisting terminally ill patients
Quite often, nephrology nurses work in teams or manage groups of nurses in an effort to provide the highest quality of patient care possible. Nephrology nurses are required to receive continuing education every 2 to 4 years, undergo regular performance reviews, and evaluate industry relevant clinical research. In the performance of their responsibilities, they adhere to the Standards of Nephrology Nursing Practice.

Continuting Education

To maintain current their skills and knowlege, nephrology nurses are required to complete continuing education. There is always new technology and medical procedures that nephrology nurses must learn. Nephrology nurses fulfill continuing education requirements by reading industry journals, and participating in ongoing continuing education courses and attending seminars. Every fall, the American Nephrology Nurses’ Association sponsors the national seminar for nephrology nurses, one of the largest seminars of its kind in the nation.

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