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What Degree Does a Nephrology Nurse Need?

Some nurses primarily treat patients in a specific age group, while others work with patients who have different medical issues. Nephrology nurses work with patients that either have kidney problems or are at risk for developing these problems.

Nephrology nurse

IMAGE SOURCE: Wikimedia Commons, Creative Commons license

Path to Becoming a Nephrology Nurse

If you want to become a nephrology nurse, you must first become a registered nurse (RN) or a Licensed Practical/Vocational Nurse (LPN/LVN). While LPNS or LVNS can become nephology nurses, RNs will have an advantage in the job market. RNs need to hold an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN).  Also, you will need to pass the NCLEX-RN. While a ADN is enough to take the exam, students with a BSN have a better pass rate.

Another reason to consider pursuing your BSN degree, according to US News & World Report, is the growing trend in nurse specialties requiring higher education. With more nurses needing a Master’s of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctorate in Nursing Practice (DNP), students might want to consider going for their BSN right away, since there are more graduate programs available for nurses who already have a BSN degree than those for students with an ADN, according to U.S. News & World Report.

If you are considering earning an advanced degree to move up in your career, you might want to pursue a DNP instead of a MSN. The American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN) is proposing that advanced practice registered nurses be required to attain a doctorate degree rather than a master’s degree. This movement has even prompted some schools to begin transitioning their MSN programs into DNP programs.

LPNS and LVNs might be able to get into the field of nephrology, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports their median salary is only $46,660, while RNs enjoy a median salary of $70,000.

Nephrology Nursing Certification Options

The Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission (NNCC) offers six different certifications, though some might be more beneficial than others. The Certified Nephrology Nurse (CNN) is designed for RNs that practice in multiple areas of nephrology. Holding this certification proves that you are dedicated to your profession. This certificate requires 3,000 hours of experience in nephrology within three years prior of applying for the certificate, with 750 of those hours taking place within the current year. This degree requires either a baccalaureate degree in nursing or a Master of Science in Nursing degree. However, since at least 30 hours of continuing education in nephrology are also required, getting a MSN might be in your best interest.

The Certified Nephrology Nurse – Nurse Practitioner (CNN-NP) is geared toward nurse practitioners working in nephrology practices. This certificate ensures you are ready to safely help patients. Some practices might even pay for the exam or offer financial incentives for you to get certified. To become eligible, you must be an RN with at least 2,000 hours as a nurse practitioner working in nephrology within two years. You must also have sixty hours of continuing education in nephrology, which is another reason to consider a MSN or DNP. You will also need to have completed sixty hours of continuing education in nephrology within two years of applying for the certificate

If your focus is dialysis, the NNCC offers the Certified Dialysis Nurse (CDN) credential for RNs working in dialysis facilities. This credential shows that you are committed to keeping yourself educated in helping dialysis patients. You will need 2,000 hours as a registered nurse working in the nephrology field and 20 hours of continuing education within the two years prior to applying for this exam. There are two other certificates that involve dialysis, but these are designed for dialysis technicians. These certificates are the Certified Clinical Hemodialysis Technician (CCHT) and the Certified Clinical Hemodialysis Technician – Advanced (CCHT-A).

Licensed practical nurses and licensed vocational nurses have certificates available to them in the form of the Certified Dialysis -Licensed Practical Nurse (CD-LPN) and the Certified Dialysis -Licensed Vocational Nurse (CD-LVN).

Dialysis nurses were ranked 18 in the top 25 types of nurses employers are looking for, and the CDN certification is the recommended certification for this job.

The Role of a Nephrology Nurse

Nephrology nurses work in many settings. Many nephrology nurses work in dialysis centers. During dialysis, a patient’s blood is put through a machine to help remove any waste or excess fluid. A dialysis nurse monitors this process and communicates with the patient.

Nephrology nurses can also work in hospitals, where they care for patients who are having kidney issues. Their duties might involve helping to stabilize patients, managing their symptoms, and assisting with surgeries.

Dialysis Registered Nurses earn a median salary of $76,647, according to PayScale.

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