Nurses who provide care to patients with kidney disease are referred to as nephrology nurses. A significant aspect of nephrology nursing is hemodialysis, a process that involves using sophisticated medical equipment to remove harmful waste materials from the patient's blood stream. Dialysis nurses typically supervise hemodialysis technicians to handle the procedure, so in most cases you'll need to be a registered nurse, but licensed practical nurses can be certified in the field as well.
Dialysis nurses work as part of a nephrology team. Other members include the nephrologist, typically a doctor who has at least five years of internal medicine and kidney disease training. The team also includes patient care technicians, renal dietitians, social workers and assorted other administrative and technical staff members. To be effective as a dialysis nurse, you'll need to interact effectively with other members of your team, including those you supervise and those you report to.
A major part of your role as a dialysis nurse is teaching your patients, their caregivers and other health care technicians about kidney disease, medical issues that accompany kidney disease, and problems associated with long-term and chronic dialysis. You might instruct patients and their caregivers regarding self-care, preventative health care and self-dialysis.
The nephrologist might have the overall responsibility for directing dialysis patient care, but the dialysis nurse is the one who typically provides the hands-on care. Your nursing care extends beyond the individual patient to the patient's family and others he is close to. You'll provide education, information and counseling to each of these individuals. You will also observe the patient and assess his needs, note changes in his condition, coordinate care with other members of the team, serve as an advocate on the patient's behalf and help formulate a plan of long-term care.
In addition to providing personal nursing care to your patients, you'll also be responsible for supervising others, such as hemodialysis technicians. This might include formulating a schedule for patient dialysis and monitoring the techs as they insert the needles through access points that connect the patient to the hemodialysis equipment. You might also have oversight of administrative personnel who schedule patient appointments. As a supervisor you are responsible for making sure the orders from the nephrologist are carried out accurately and efficiently.
- American Nephrology Nurses' Association: Scope of Practice for Nephrology Nursing
- Mayo Clinic: Members of the Dialysis Health Care Team
- Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission: CNN Eligibility Criteria
- Nurse.com: Nephrology Nurse
- Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission: New Dialysis Certification Exams Available from The Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission
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