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How to Become a Nephrology Nurse

by Beth Greenwood

Nephrology nursing is a specialty for registered nurses and advanced practice nurses. Nephrology nurses prevent, treat and manage kidney disease and try to alleviate the suffering of patients with kidney failure. Although all registered nurses receive basic training in kidney function and related illnesses, nephrology nurses have a much higher level of knowledge and training. In addition to basic patient care, nephrology nurses manage dialysis, a complicated treatment for patients with kidney failure.

Education and Certification

A registered nurse (RN) must complete an associate, nursing diploma or bachelor’s degree program to be eligible to take the licensing national exam. Once an RN has a license, she must apply to the organization of her choice; some organizations require experience in nursing in general or in the field of nephrology, while others will train an inexperienced nurse on the job. Nephrology nurses may also earn certification in the specialty by passing an exam available from the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission.

Specialized Knowledge and Training

Nephrology nurses must have specialized knowledge to care for patients with kidney problems and failure. Among these are anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, nutrition, renal therapies, transplant procedures and palliative care for the dying patient. In addition to on-the-job training, nephrology nurses can learn about their specialty through continuing education. The American Association of Nephrology Nurses has a number of modules and webinars on nephrology-related topics that nurses can access for educational purposes. Local seminars, publications on nephrology and job-shadowing are other ways for the nurse to expand her knowledge base.

Duties and Work Settings

Nephrology nurses may work as staff nurses or managers in hospital or outpatient settings. Some nephrology nurses specialize in dialysis, kidney transplants or organ recovery from donors who want to donate a kidney. They may also work in nephrologists’ offices, perform research or quality management. Whether a nephrology nurse must belong to a union depends on the organization for which she works. Some nephrology nurses provide direct care to one or more patients, while others coordinate the care of a group of patients. Advanced practice nurses may manage the care of nephrology patients in the same way a physician would.

Salaries

Although the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not specifically track nephrology nurses, demand for registered nurses is expected to grow 26 percent between 2010 and 2020. The average annual salary for RNs in 2011 was $69,110, according to the BLS. However, Glassdoor.com reported that salaries for dialysis nurses ranged from $20,000 to $90,000 annually as of November 2012.

About the Author

Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.

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