Nephrology nurses care for patients with acute kidney injury, chronic kidney disease, and end-stage renal disease. These patients typically require hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis, which is delivered in the hospital or outpatient setting.
Characteristics needed. Nephrology nurses need compassion, determination, an eagerness to learn, and strong advocacy and time management skills. They also should be able to adapt to change and work well with others.
Rewards. The biggest rewards of the job are the interprofessional and patient relationships that develop. A multidisciplinary approach is key to successful care of patients with chronic kidney disease and end-stage renal disease. Nephrology nurses work closely with nurses, dieticians, and social workers to provide essential patient care. And because nephrology nurses care for patients with a lifelong disease, they build long-term relationships—laughing, crying, and celebrating together.
Challenges. Patients with serious nephrology disease typically have multiple comorbidities, such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiac disease. Because the kidneys are complex organs with roles in multiple essential body functions—including red blood cell production, electrolyte management, bone mineral metabolism, and fluid balance—nephrology nurses must manage conditions such as anemia, electrolyte imbalances, secondary hyperparathyroidism, and volume overload. In addition to these physiologic challenges, nurses encounter patients with socioeconomic barriers that can hinder care delivery.
Education requirements. Education requirements depend on the role. For example, an ADN is sufficient for a staff nurse in a dialysis center, but a nurse who wants to manage chronic conditions should become an acute care or family nurse practitioner.
Professional associations. The American Nephrology Nursing Association is an excellent resource. It publishes Nephrology Nursing Journal and offers education programs, including online options and live events.
Bottom line. “Like kidney disease, my job is complex, but rewarding.”
Lauren Hinote is a certified registered nurse practitioner at West Alabama Nephrology in Northport, Alabama.