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Nephrology Nursing

“Nephrology” is the field of medicine that focuses on the diagnosis and treatment of kidney disease; therefore, a nephrology nurse is a nurse whose specialty is working with patients who have various disorders of the kidneys.

Beginning in the early 1970s, the federal government recognized end stage renal disease (or ESRD) as a disease-caused disability. As such, federal funding for treatment of this disease by dialysis or by kidney transplant became much more readily available, and nephrology nursing began to evolve.

Today’s nephrology nurses help not only chronically ill ESRD patients, but also work to prevent kidney disease with those who are at risk, and work with all the body’s organs to keep patients healthy. They tend to also be highly educated in the fields of gerontology, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, anemia, and bone care management, because patients with kidney diseases tend to suffer from other problems, as well.

Roles of Nephrology Nurses

Because kidney disease takes many different forms, the sub-specialties of nephrology nurses are likewise broad in range. Some nurses specialize in dialysis, some with transplants or recovering donated organs. There are nephrology nurses who work only with adults, while others work only with children. There are nephrology nurses in private doctor’s offices, but there are also nephrology nurses in hospitals and outpatient clinics. Here’s a closer look at some of the sub-specialties of these nurses.

 

 

The Different Roles of Nephrology Nurses

Dialysis Nurses

Dialysis is the process whereby the body’s fluids are cleansed artificially through special equipment. The kidney’s normal function in the body is to remove waste products and excess fluids from the body. People whose kidneys are not functioning properly require regular dialysis treatments – usually three to four days per week. Dialysis nurses are specially trained nurses who operate the dialysis machine for these patients. Before and after treatment, they perform a patient assessment, which is critical in understanding how well a patient is responding to the dialysis. These nurses are often responsible for maintaining the dialysis equipment through general maintenance.

Pediatric Nephrology Nurses

Pediatric nephrology nurses specialize in working with children who are experiencing kidney disease or kidney failure. This nurse works not only with the patient, but also helps educate the patient’s family about how to help the child lead the most normal, comfortable life possible. And because their patients are children, the pediatric nephrology nurses also offer a great deal of psychological support, both for the child and his/her family. Because the child with kidney disease requires a good deal of specialized treatment, the nurse often works to help coordinate the child’s care with other hospital departments, such as urology, radiation, nutrition, psychiatry, and anesthesia.

Transplant Nurses

Kidney transplants are the most common type of organ transplant performed. Nurses who work with transplant patients coordinate their care before, during, and after the transplant operation. They educate the patient and their family, and help the patient have a smooth transition back into normal life. The rewards of this sub-specialty of nephrology nursing are obvious – for a successful transplant patient, the medical team is giving the patient a second chance at life, because without a transplant, patients often do not survive.

Not all transplant nurses work with the recipient of the donated kidney; some transplant nurses focus on the care of the donor him or herself, as the donor is prepared for the surgery, undergoes the kidney removal, and recovers afterward.

 

Becoming a Nephrology Nurse

Once an RN decides to specialize in nephrology, they can become a Certified Nephrology Nurse (CNN), but they can also certify to specialize in dialysis as a Certified Dialysis Nurse (CDN). While most states require that nurses operating dialysis equipment be certified, not all nephrology nurses are required to be certified. Many organizations state that they prefer to hire CNN nurses, but it is not a requirement to work in the field of nephrology.

Job Prospects for Nephrology Nurses

Unfortunately, because the risk factors for kidney disease, such as obesity and diabetes, are on the rise, the number of Americans with kidney disease is also steadily rising. Currently, it is estimated that between 10 and 20 million Americans have kidney disease, and Stage 5 chronic kidney disease, or CKD, is growing at a rate of approximately 3% per year. As such, the number of nurses required to care for these patients is also growing. Nephrology nursing is a rapidly expanding field.

RNs who specialize in renal dialysis earn an average salary of $63,000 per year. Hourly rates for these nurses vary widely depending upon the state of employment and the job function of the nurse, ranging anywhere from about $16 per hour for inexperienced nurses to $50 per hour for experienced dialysis nurses working through nursing agencies. Because dialysis nursing involves complex equipment and a good deal of knowledge, on the whole they earn more than other nephrology nurses.

 

 


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