HIV/AIDS Nurse – Offering Healing Compassion and Social Support
HIV/AIDS is a complex autoimmune condition whose symptoms can manifest in many ways. Nursing individuals who are diagnosed HIV positive can present many challenges. Rare conditions may be common with HIV-positive individuals and bacteria and fungi that are normal in the human body can become life-threatening in the HIV-positive person. AIDS affects the patient not only physically but may have negative social and psychological effects. The HIV nurse helps educate the patient and family in dealing with HIV.

The HIV/AIDS (Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) nurse may work with clinics, hospitals, community outreach programs, or Home Health nursing.

HIV/AIDS Nurse Job Description & Scope of Practice

The AIDS nurse will work with HIV-positive patients in order to assist the individual in maintaining as independent a lifestyle as possible. HIV-positive patients receive education, support, and health care from AIDS nurses. This is a position requiring a nurse who is well educated in the complications of HIV as well as compassionate and knowledgeable in the social and psychological ramifications of living with a pervasive autoimmune condition.

The AIDS nurse will assess the patient, administer physician-ordered treatments and medications to the patient. In a home health care setting the HIV/AIDS nurse will, document changes in patient status to the physician or health care team, counsel family members about HIV, and how to help care for the patient.

An HIV/AIDS Nurse Practitioner or HIV Clinical Nursing Specialist will take more responsibility in the care of the AIDS-positive patient than other nurses. The Nurse Practitioner who specializes in AIDS-positive patients may order tests, adjust medications and monitor the patient for infections or cancers that can accompany HIV. The clinical nurse specialist may be responsible for patient assessment, drawing up a plan of care, and helping the family and patient adapt to the changes illness may bring.

HIV nurses will administer IV medications when necessary and conduct physician-ordered tests. The role of the AIDS nurse is as complex as the manifestations of the HIV disease and the nurse must be extremely well trained in the AIDS virus and the disease progression.

How to Become an HIV/AIDS Nurse

After receiving a nursing degree the HIV/AIDS nurse who plans on specializing in this autoimmune disease must also have 2 years of clinical experience in HIV nursing, counseling, or education. This is to ensure that the nurse understands the scope of the disease and has practical nursing experience in dealing with patients, families, and complications of AIDS. Some nurses elect to apply for internship programs and others are employed by hospitals, home health organizations, or community agencies dealing with HIV-positive individuals.

HIV nurses are required to treat many conditions that are rare in the general population but these diseases may be relatively common with immune-suppressed individuals. HIV/AIDS patients may also be using relatively new drugs in order to help stem the progress of the disease. The AIDS nurse must keep a close watch on patient status changes when this is the case.

HIV/AIDS Nurse Education Requirements, Certification and Schooling Programs

  • Complete a 2 or 4 years accredited nursing program earning an Associate or Bachelor of Science in nursing.
  • Pass the NCLEX-RN examination to receive a license.
  • Certification is not required but usually highly recommended for nurses who want to provide the best care possible to their patients. Certification can also be helpful for nurses who want to advance their careers more quickly.
  • A Pre-certification requirement for HIV/AIDS nursing is that the RN must work for 2 years as an HIV/AIDS nurse for a total of 2000 hours of clinical experience prior to taking the certification examination.
  • Pass the HIV/AIDS Nursing Board certification examination.
  • Certification in HIV/AIDS Nursing for Nurse Practitioners and Clinical Nurse Specialists working with predominately HIV-positive patient populations may be required by some employing agencies. If you are currently a Registered Nurse in the USA or have equivalent international qualification and also have been working for 2 years or more in HIV/AIDS research, education, clinical practice, or any other HIV/AIDS area; then you will be eligible for the AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (ACRN) examination. This HIV/AIDS certification examination is administered by the Professional Testing Corporation (PTC). It is endorsed by the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC) and the HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board (HANCB). Once you pass the certification exam, you will then be able to put the ACRN designation after your name. The HANCB will send you your new certificate. Although voluntary, certification shows you are dedicated to a career in HIV/AIDS Nursing, and the more seriously you will be taken amongst your peers and potential employers.

HIV/AIDS Nurse Salary and Career Outlook

The job outlook for the AIDS nurse with an RN is very good. HIV/AIDS nursing is a nursing specialty that is in high demand. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a 19% growth in jobs for nurses through 2022.

The average salary of an RN specialising in HIV patient care is generally from $55,000 to $70,000 per year. The advanced degree HIV/AIDS nurse or Nurse practitioner may expect to earn from $80,000 to $89,000 a year.