What Is a Nephrology Nurse?

Nephrology nurses work primarily with patients experiencing kidney problems as well as those patients who are at risk of developing kidney problems. They treat and care for patients throughout the lifespan from infancy to end of life. Some of the medical problems nephrology nurses may encounter and treat include End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), renal cysts, kidney transplants and kidney stones among many other diseases and disease processes.

Where Do Nephrology Nurses Work?

Nephrology nurses have a wide range of sites they practice. Nurses may work in a hospital setting, clinic, physician’s office, or home healthcare agency to assist patients with kidney health needs in their own homes, such as performing dialysis.

Education Requirements and Licensing

In order to become a nephrology nurse, you must be a Licensed Practical (or Vocational) Nurse (LPN/LVN) or a Registered Nurse (RN) with an Associate's Degree (ADN) or a Bachelor's Degree (BSN). Each license has a different scope of practice and education requirements must be met as well as passing a board exam. Read more regarding differences here.

To work in the nursing field of nephrology, experience level required will vary from setting to setting.

In a clinical setting specific to nephrology, some experience with patient population may be required. Many clinics see a wide range of patient populations that may not be specialized in nephrology solely so this is important to be aware of when looking into clinic settings.

A dialysis outpatient clinic may require experience working in an acute care setting, IV experience, and a minimum BLS certification. In addition they may also require specialized training. Many of these skills may be required prior to hire, or training may be provided.

Many hospital settings require some previous acute care or hospital experience prior to working on a unit that has patients experiencing kidney problems such as transplant. A Basic Life Support certification, IV skills, and potentially an Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support certification may be required. Some hospitals may hire nurses that specifically perform procedures such as dialysis or apheresis. To complete this, specialized training is required.

There are many opportunities within nephrology nursing to specialize in, such as pediatric nephrology or dialysis.

Additionally, there are options for less direct patient care such as management positions as well as research positions.

What Are the Types of Nephrology Nursing Certifications?

There are two designated Certifications recognized by the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission:

Certified Dialysis Nurse CDN

The requirements to be able to obtain this certification include:

  • Applicant must hold an active unrestricted nursing license in the USA
  • Must have 2,000 or more hours of experience in nephrology nursing and 20 hours of nephrology nursing continuing education that was completed within the two years prior to applying
  • The applicant must pass an exam and pay a fee to obtain this certification.

Certified Nephrology Nurse CNN

The requirements to be able to obtain this certification include:

  • The applicant must hold an active unrestricted nursing license in the USA
  • Must have 3,000 or more hours of experience in nephrology nursing and 30 hours of approved continuing education credit in past three years and meet requirements for experience working with specific disease processes afflicting patients
  • The applicant must pass an exam and pay a fee to obtain this certification

What Does a Nephrology Nurse Do?

Working with patients who are in varying levels of treatment for kidney problems, the nephrology nurse’s duties may include prevention, education, and monitoring in a clinic setting all the way to acute treatment in a hospital.

In an outpatient setting such as a dialysis center, nurses perform dialysis. During dialysis, blood is cleansed using a machine removing waste and excess fluid in place of the kidneys. The nurse will perform assessments and monitoring during this procedure as well as provide education.

Nephrology nursing may also include acute care in hospital settings that include stabilization, assessments, symptom management, procedures, surgeries and education.

Nephrology nurses have fine-tuned assessment skills when assessing kidney function as it relates to health and establish effective treatment plans for their patients.

Nephrology Nurse Salary and Employment

Nephrology nurse salaries can vary based on many factors, including setting, location, experience level, education, and more. For a nephrology nurse that has specialized and completed the certification, the salary average is approximately $74,018 per year. This average may decrease for those without the certification, or increase for those in a managerial role.

With the demand for specialty RNs on the rise, the employment outlook for nephrology nurses remains favorable. Employment is expected to continue rising through the next few years, making nephrology nursing a great career prospect.

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