A renal, nephrology or dialysis nurse is responsible for the care of patients with kidney disease. Nephrology is the branch of medicine that deals with the kidney. This type of nurse may work in clinics, homes or hospitals; her duties range from educating patients to operating dialysis equipment. In addition to caring for patients, a renal nurse must perform clerical tasks and report to physicians as needed. A renal nurse is a specialist in the field of nephrology and must be a registered nurse.
Renal nurses must be registered nurses and must acquire either an associate's, bachelor's or master's degree in nursing. After completion of the degree, a prospective nurse must take and pass the national licensing examination for the state in which he'll be working. After licensing, the candidate must study the diseases that affect the kidneys and take his state's certified dialysis nurse examination.
Renal nurses work with the public; therefore, excellent communication, professional conduct and integrity are important skills to possess. Additionally, because renal nurses work with charts and medical inventory, attention to detail is also an asset. Working within a medical setting with multiple personnel also requires the nurse to be able to work as a team to care for the patient.
The renal nurse receives specialized training on the use and care of kidney-specific equipment, including dialysis machines that clean the patient's blood of waste products and excess water. A dialysis machine uses a membrane to filter the blood. The machine uses a liquid called dialysate to clean the blood; purified water is used to keep elements in the dialysate from causing blood cell loss. Renal nurses maintain both the dialysis machines and the water-purification system that goes along with it.
Tasks and Duties
The renal nurse's main duty is to make sure the patient is comfortable. Other tasks may be administrative, including documenting procedures, filling in charts, ordering supplies and checking inventory. While dealing with patients, a renal nurse will perform many tasks, including operating dialysis equipment, conducting specific tests, administering medications, taking vital signs, responding to emergencies, monitoring patients, measuring and calculating fluids during dialysis, and providing educational information.
Salary and Job Outlook
According to Salary.com's Salary Wizard, the average median salary for an RN staff renal nurse is $65,538 as of 2010. There's a shortage of renal nurses, which can translate to heavy workloads and overtime, but it also can mean higher salaries and job security. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the need for registered nurses will increase 22 percent from 2008 to 2018. The National Kidney Foundation states that kidney disease is on the rise due to increasing obesity and diabetes rates and an aging population. This will increase the need for renal nurses in the near future.
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