Renal Nursing Career

Each year more Americans are being diagnosed with some type of kidney disease and the nephrology aspect of nursing is and has been a growing field for decades.

Even in this economy, the field continues to grow. Although the growth is there, a huge shortage of nurses due to the upcoming Baby Boomers getting ready to retire, and lack of programs around the country. The need for great nurses in all fields is still there.1

New registered nurses (RNs) are needed in all different fields, especially nephrology due to the rapid increase in chronic kidney disease (CKD).

Those who step into the nursing world do it for security as well as the desire to help those around them. They choose this career path, get their degree, pass all required exams and run with it. As time goes by, some realize that the daily life on the job, that typical 40-hour week, can become monotonous and the itch to change begins.

Everyone has the ability to learn, grow and improve on what they already know, all it takes is a little extra work, some determination and a support system. Opportunities in the nursing field await and are knocking at the door, you just have to go take the risk and open it.

First Steps
Nursing school is behind you. Your RN degree from an accredited nursing program is in your hands. You received an associate degree in nursing (ADN), a bachelor’s of science degree in nursing (BSN) or a nursing diploma, which is still offered through some hospital-based nursing schools around the country. You took the dreaded National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX) and passed, now what?

You’ve considered a career “upgrade” but there are so many options. You can transition into the nephrology world, you can go back to school and get a Masters of Business Administration (MBA) degree and focus on the managerial aspect of medicine, or advance yourself in the clinical aspect and go for a Nursing Practitioner (NP) degree. Maybe you want to get into education or research. With so many options questions always occur of what is best for me?

Consider This Before You Proceed
Time is an important factor in this as well as the money issue. Transferring departments from a general nurse to a nephrology nurse is one direction that can be taken and it’s by far the least challenging. All it takes is an opening in the department and the desire to learn all there is about dialysis, kidney problems, along with hypertension, diabetes, fistulas, transplants and so much more. Going for a masters or a PhD, is something completely different. More time and money are required for this path. Some things to keep in mind are:

Do you have the time to dedicate to school?
Do you have the patience to go back and do it again?
Can you juggle your life and everything that goes along with a higher education degree?
Do you have people around you that will support you or will they drag you down? (This may seem like a minimal issue, but you would be surprised how often marriages and relationships fall apart because the partner can’t accept a decrease in attention they get from you, the student.)

Figure out what you want, how much you want to invest and go from there. With so many options one is about to spark your interest.

Nephrology, Nursing at its Finest
For 39 years, nephrology nursing has climbed steadily and continues to climb. An estimated 23 million American adults have chronic kidney disease (CKD). It is the only disease-caused disability that is funded by the federal government through the Social Security program.

The field continues to escalate as the increase in CKD patients continues to increase due to more frequent diagnoses in high blood pressure and diabetes. Nurses in this field must be skilled, motivated and highly educated. These nurses not only deal with kidney disease but frequently cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and hypertension to name a few.2 Extra sensitivity towards patients is required because they usually deal with multiple diseases, and have to adjust to a completely different lifestyle such as diet and exercise alterations and increased side effects from medication.

Receiving a certification in nephrology is not necessary, but it may better ones chances at a better job, better pay and more knowledge. Transitioning from a general nursing field to nephrology is the first of many steps. A career in nephrology opens doors to research, transplant coordinators and educators.

From RN to Transplant Coordinator
Mary Murphy, RN, CCTC, has been a RN for 30 years. She graduated from The College of Saint Theresa in Winona, Minn. After graduation she worked in a hospital as a staff nurse before transitioning into the nephrology department.

“Moving into nephrology exposed me to transplant and after a few years I became a kidney/pancreas transplant coordinator at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.,” she said.

To be a nephrology nurse or a transplant coordinator does not require additional training or a certification. Some, like Murphy take a specific test and get a Certified Clinical Transplant Coordinator (CCTC) certificate.

“It is an exam you take to be certified in the field of transplant of all organs,” Murphy said. “It is not required to be a transplant coordinator, but I am.”

The certification program is a bonus when someone is looking to transition into the nephrology and transplant world. Before tackling the certification Murphy recommends working on a nephrology focused floor or a dialysis center.

“You know a lot of information after you’ve worked in the field for a couple of years and then after that you can just study what it is you don’t know to take the exam,” she said.

As a transplant coordinator, knowing a lot about renal failure and dialysis is key. Guiding the patient from start of dialysis to the moment they are to go in for their surgery is a coordinator’s job. You learn about each individual, how to care for them and make them feel comfortable, as well as infection control and the possibility of organ rejection.

“A transplant nurse knows a lot about the specific field while still having a general field in nursing and pediatrics,” she said.

Learning is something Murphy enjoys doing. She is a part of a group called International Transplant Nurse Society (ITNS) and is the secretary for the Local ITNS Chapter of Arizona. Every year ITNS holds a conference and every other year she’s there not only learning herself, but teaching those attendants on her specialty, nephrology and nephrology and pediatrics.

“The ITNS local chapter lectures are open to anyone,” said Murphy. “We encourage attendees to join our local chapter.”

Currently there are 24 local chapters nationwide and six world wide and more are always developing.

The meetings are held quarterly and focus on educational presentations where individuals can receive continuing education (CE) credits. Basic RN CE credits are not required in 17 states while others have specified requirements.3

“For the CCTC you have to renew every three years and you need 60 hours of continuing education, a third of it has to be related to transplant,” Murphy said.

At these meeting, whether they be local or international, networking, learning and obtaining CE credits is key. Meeting people from all over the world and learning about different techniques, treatments and everything in between keeps these clinicians on top of their game.

“I personally learn a lot about the pediatric field when I get ready for these presentations,” Murphy said. “You collect information and do research on the patients and present it to the whole group.”

For the last six-and-a-half years Murphy has worked at Phoenix Children’s Hospital as a pediatric kidney coordinator.

“I watch these kids grow up, from the time they start dialysis until the age of 18,” Murphy said. “Once they have a kidney transplant, it’s not like having your appendix taken out, you don’t need to be seen again, we have to see them ongoing, even if they’ve had their transplant eight or 10 years ago, we still need to see them to look at all their medical issues.”

Growing by Educating
After 25 years with the American Nephrology Nurses’ Association (ANNA), Hazel Dennison, DNP, RN, APNc, CPHQ, CNE, has transitioned into the education world.

Appointed Director of Education Services (DES) for ANNA in November 2011, Dennison has had her foot in the education door as long as she can remember.

She has dabbled in many different aspects of nursing. From a Nurse Practitioner (NP), to administrator she has always loved to teach. The position with ANNA “just sort of happened.”

“No matter where I worked, no matter what job title I had, I always ended up teaching,” she said. “So that piece of it seemed natural to me.”

Originally an ICU nurse, Dennison transitioned into the nephrology world after a friend told her how much she would love it. Five years later, another person came into her life and introduced her to ANNA.

“I met a lady from another state who came to work in New Jersey and she was a member of ANNA. She brought me the journal, she talked about the meetings they went to, and invited me to go to a meeting with her and I was hooked,” she said.

Currently she overlooks a group of nurses that are all volunteers on the planning committee.

“The planning committee for ANNA plans two conferences a year and four webinars a year,” she said.

The conferences for all the ANNA members take two to three months to organize, find guest speakers for and make sure all information is put together.

“I’m kind of the organizer, the person who takes all of the information from the planning committee and makes a conference out of it,” she said. “We also have webinars and the planning committee does so much of the work. I’m just the person to pull it together for them.”

In addition to being an educator she received her Doctorate in Nursing Practice from Rutgers University, New Jersey, is a member of the National Kidney Foundation (NFK) and the New Jersey Nurse Educators Association.

To start off in the educational direction she suggests getting involved with educational committees, either locally or nationally.

“There is so much you can do to volunteer,” she said. “You can get involved in the local chapter and help them organize and provide education within the chapter.

Still Not Certain? Here’s Some More…
Whether you are interested in going back to school or slowly transitioning up the nephrology food chain there are many more options out there.

Get Certified:
Although there is no national requirement to be certified in nephrology nursing there are three different certifications that some employers require for a nephrology specialist to obtain.

The Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission (NNCC) offers these exams that allow you to advance. A Certified Nephrology Nurse-Nurse Practitioner (CNN-NP), a Certified Nephrology Nurse (CNN), and a Certified Dialysis Nurse (CDN). All information can be accessed through NNCC website. Even if your current or future employer doesn’t require a certification, obtaining one allows you to perfect your skill and keep up with the up and coming nephrology world.

Case Management:
A case manager most of the time is the person behind the scenes and behind a computer or clip board. These people deal not only with the patient but the staff in a hospital setting. They plan the patients’ path while the patient is in the hospital. A case manager makes sure that what is going on around the patient is best for the patient. They make sure the patient not only is getting what is best for their health, but also what is most cost-effective. Organization, patience, and care are key in this role.

If you are one of those individuals who likes to analyze, collect and display data, then research is your best option.Frequently you are required to have a master’s degree, so if this is the way you are planning on going one day try and get some advanced schooling.

Have you always loved and beat everyone when selling Girls Scout Cookies or Boy Scouts popcorn? Perhaps sales is a good place for you. Getting involved with national or international companies and promoting and selling their products might be the direction to take while still working in the medical world. Companies such as Baxter, Fresenius, NxStage and any pharmaceutical company out there are always looking for eager and outgoing sales people.

No matter where you end up in the nursing world, whether it be behind a dialysis machine or in a white lab coat or a suit, the options in this field are limitless. Now that you know what’s out there pick a path in the fork of the road and follow it. Don’t forget, if you get bored you can go back and do it all over again.  ~renalbusinesstoday.com~

If you are looking for a career in dialysis, AHS Renalstat is a leading healthcare staffing company specializing in temporary, travel and permanent placement for dialysis nurses and managers throughout the United States.

AHS RenalStat wants to be your advocate for finding the placement you desire, the compensation you deserve, and the tools you need to be effective in your profession.  Whether you want per diem/relief work, a travel position, or a permanent position, AHS RenalStat will work to connect you with the perfect placement for your lifestyle.
For more information, contact:
AHS RenalStat
A Leader in Healthcare Staffing
[email protected]

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