Nephrology Nurse

Specializing in Kidney Disorders
The nephrology nurse works with patients with kidney diseases and disorders. Nephrology nurses may work in dialysis units, in critical care units, home care and in hospitals. Kidney disease can be seen in individuals at any age and may frequently be seen as a secondary complication of another condition.

Nephrology Nurse Job Description & Scope of Practice

The nephrology nurse may assist patients in a physician’s office, a dialysis unit or at home. The nurse may perform assessments of patient condition, take medical histories, check vitals signs, explain doctor’s orders to patients or perform dialysis. Individuals who have undergone kidney transplants or who are experiencing renal failure or malfunction are the main concern of the nephrology nurse.

The precise role of a nephrology nurse depends upon the nurse’s level of certification.  There are four levels of certification available through the NNCC (Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission) and they are as follows:

  • Certified Nephrology Nurse Practitioner
  • Certified Nephrology Nurse
  • Certified Dialysis Nurse
  • Certified Hemodialysis Technician

The nephrology nurse may also work in transplant units with patients who have had a kidney transplant. This type of nursing may entail a strong element of patient education whether the nurse is employed in a dialysis unit or an outpatient clinic.


How to Become a Nephrology Nurse

The nephrology nurse must be an RN or LPN and some may move from medical surgical experience into nephrology nursing. Nurses with Master Degrees may have specialized in nephrology and this makes finding a job as a nephrology nurse much easier for the new nurse.

New RNs often take continuing education courses in order to become more qualified as nephrology nurses especially if they are required to wait for an opening in the unit.


Nephrology Nurse Education Requirements, Certification, and Schooling Programs

Due to the technical requirements and the complexity of nursing patients with renal disease, more nursing specialties such as nephrology are moving toward hiring only nurses with Bachelor or Master Degrees.

  • A nursing license is required. Most employers prefer an RN with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing or a clinical nurse or nurse practitioner with a Master of Science in Nursing
  • Advanced degree nurses may specialize in nephrology during their Master Program. These nurses and RNs with Bachelor degrees will still have to accrue 2 years experience working with patients who have or are at risk for kidney disease in order to become certified.
  • Certification is available for LPN/LVNs working in Nephrology Units after several years experience.
  • All Nephrology nurses are required to have continuing education hours in order to keep their licenses current.
  • To obtain certification as a nephrology nurse, interested persons should contact the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission (NNCC). After successfully passing an examination, certified nurses carry the credentials of CNN or Certified Nephrology Nurse. Before taking the examination, applicants must work as a nephrology nurse for a minimum of two years, work for at least 3000 hours over the previous three years, and complete 30 continuing education hours within the same time period. The exam is available at various CBT, Computer Based Test location as well as other locations that offer written examinations as an alternative. Certification is endorsed by the American Nephrology Nurses’ Association (ANNA). Certification is not mandatory, but certified applicants usually have a competitive edge over other job seekers.


Nephrology Nurse Salary and Career Outlook

Job growth for nephrology nurses is predicted to be from 21%-23% through the year 2018, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average salary for a nephrology nurse is around $73,000 per year. This figure is based upon the salary of an RN holding a Bachelor of Science in Nephrology Degree. The salary will vary according to the nurse’s education and the part of the country they are located.