What is a Nephrology Nurse?

A nephrology nurse is a health care professional who specializes in the organ functionality and clinical treatment of health problems in the kidneys. These organs filter toxins, remove waste from the blood and support the urinary system. People who experience kidney problems may develop life threatening medical conditions. Nephrology is a branch of medicine that started in the 1970’s and it continues to grow with modern advancements in medicine.

Basic Job Responsibilities

Nephrology nurses must provide accurate patient assessments and collect data in timely and systematic manners. They use observations, examinations and intervention techniques to gather patient information. They must continuously assess their patient’s physical and psychological conditions to determine their nursing care needs and health risks. Nephrology nurses document all pertinent data into the electronic medical records, such as daily patient care notes, external provider assessments and dialysis parameter evaluations.

Nephrology nurses play one of the most important roles in assessing, diagnosing and treating patients with kidney conditions. They educate patients who are experiencing series kidney issues. These nursing professionals teach patients to help them understand the side effects of their condition and change their behaviors. They demonstrate to their patients how they can better manage their symptoms. They provide advice to patients on nutrition, lifestyle restrictions, treatment options and self-care techniques.

Career Snapshot

A patient assessment involves a detailed review of the patient’s medical history. Nephrology nurses often conduct the initial patient intake, which entails an in-depth interview, medical review and discussion of symptoms with the patient. Since most kidney problems and diseases are indirectly worsened by other coexisting health problems, nephrology nurses use their medical knowledge to help treat these problems. Common health problems include diabetes, urology malfunctions, high blood pressure and even substance abuse.

Nephrology nurses spend their day going from patient to patient to check in with them and help treat their kidney conditions. This often includes administering medication, assisting with dialysis and following up with medical assistants. Most patients will need dialysis to artificially perform the functions of their failing kidneys. Some nephrology nurses specialize in dialysis machine operation or kidney transplant procedures. Other nephrology nurses mainly assist with diagnostic procedures through radiological imaging tools like CTs and MRIs.

How to Become a Nephrology Nurse

In order to become a nephrology nurse, one must first become a registered nurse (RN) through earning a nursing degree and passing the RN exam. Some RNs only complete a two-year degree through a technical school or community college. Others pursue a four-year degree to obtain the standard Bachelor of Science in Nursing. This is recommended because most advance practice nurses (APNs) must earn a master’s degree in their specialization.

Licensed RNs must accrue 3,000 hours of experience in a health care organization and 30 hours of education credits related to nephrology to earn the certification. After they have the required experience and education, licensed RNs can earn the Certified Nephrology Nurse credential through the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission (NNCC). Nephrology nurses must maintain their certification through taking annual continuing education credits. Many nurses elect to pursue an advanced nursing practice (APN) certification.

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To learn more about the unique health care specialization of nephrology nursing, visit the American Nephrology Nurses Association or the American Society of Nephrology.