In caring for kidney patients, a nephrology nurse is able to have an impact on a long-term basis with not only patients, but families as well. Depending on where he or she works, a nephrology nurse can care for patients of every age, from infants to the elderly.

Range of care

Nephrology nurses may provide care in a hospital, a physician’s office, a dialysis unit, a nursing home, a prison or a university. In fact, one of the best aspects of the specialty is the diversity of nephrology nursing roles and settings. Nephrology nurses can also help provide care to patients anywhere along the spectrum of renal disease. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is listed in stages from 1 to 5, so nurses can work with patients anywhere on that continuum.

Nephrology nurses’ responsibilities vary based on the setting.

In an outpatient dialysis unit, the nurse is responsible for providing the dialysis therapy as ordered by the physician or nurse practitioner, as well as educating patients about their disease, their diet, their medications and a host of other areas.

"The challenges and rewards go hand in hand: Nephrology nurses work with the same patients every day for months and often years."

If the patient chooses a home dialysis therapy, the nurse is responsible for teaching the patient and his or her family members how to perform that therapy in their home.

In an inpatient hospital unit, the nurse is responsible for providing the acute care to help the patient recuperate sufficiently to be discharged home.

A transplant coordinator is responsible for educating a patient about transplantation, coordinating a team to perform an evaluation to assess for suitability for transplant, and education and support after the transplant.

Extended relationship    

The challenges and rewards go hand in hand: Nephrology nurses work with the same patients every day for months and often years. This can be a challenge as nurses often look at their patients as extended family, there we must be cautious with not crossing professional boundaries.

At the same time, working with the same patients for extended periods can also be incredibly rewarding, as we have an opportunity to have a positive impact on their lives and hopefully help them achieve the best level of wellness possible.

For a nurse who wants to work with chronically ill patients, being educated in that area is essential. Learn about the disease area (such as nephrology); learn about the ins and outs of working with a chronically ill patient and learn how that can affect both the patient and the nurse.