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HIV/AIDS Care Nurse: Education and Career Information

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s estimated that about 1.1 million Americans are currently living with human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV – the virus that eventually leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. The CDC states that upwards of 37,000 individuals are newly diagnosed with HIV each year. When it comes to an incurable disease such as HIV or AIDS, specialized care is necessary for affected patients – and that’s where an HIV/AIDS care nurse enters the picture. If you’re interested in helping patients manage and work through the emotional and physical symptoms that comes with an HIV infection or subsequent AIDS diagnosis, then this is the right career path for you. Here’s a look at some more information about this specialized sector of nursing:

What Does an HIV/AIDS Care Nurse Do?

As we noted above, the main role of an HIV/AIDS care nurse is caring for patients that have been infected with HIV and AIDS. In addition to caring for a patient’s emotional and physical needs at the various stages in the disease’s progression, HIV/AIDS care nurses also perform educational work in communities as a means of informing the public about the disease and explaining how they can decrease their chances of contracting it. As an HIV/AIDS care nurse, your work environment will mainly consist of hospitals, medical clinics and specialty physician offices. Some HIV/AIDS care nurses may even work with patients in their own homes when the disease becomes too debilitating and the patient is unable to safely travel to and from appointments.

As an HIV/AIDS care nurse, you’ll be working with all different types of people that have contracted the disease, including adults that may have contracted it via unprotected sex or the sharing of needles, and even infants who contracted it from an infected mother. HIV/AIDS care nurse duties don’t just include being there for emotional support, but also assisting doctors during any procedures as well as administering medication and treatments to help slow the disease’s progression.

Due to the specialized nature of the profession, HIV/AIDS care nurses must hold a nursing degree and become a registered nurse (RN). Is not unusual for nursing students to take classes in HIV and AIDS patient care throughout their studies if this is the path that they’d like to take professionally post-graduation. Beyond achieving RN status, HIV/AIDS care nurses also must meet further qualifications.

How Much Does an HIV/AIDS Care Nurse Earn?

According to Nurse Journal, the annual salary for an HIV/AIDS nurse varies by state and by employer. For instance, in Hawaii, HIV/AIDS nurses can expect to earn an average annual salary of $39,000, while the average earnings for HIV/AIDS care professionals in Massachusetts is about $75,000. On average, if you’re an HIV/AIDS nurse, you can expect to earn anywhere from $50,000 to $62,000 per year. In addition to the state you’re working in and the employment location, salary is also commensurate with experience.

Furthermore, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that the HIV/AIDS nurse profession is expected to increase at a 19 percent clip by 2024, a growth rate that is considered faster than average.

What Types of Skills are Necessary for HIV/AIDS Care Nurses?

If you’re interested in becoming an HIV/AIDS care nurse, there are several skills and intangibles that are ideal to possess. These include:

Emotional support: Unlike other diseases and conditions, HIV/AIDS is deadly and currently without a cure. And, though treatments are far better than what they were during the HIV/AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, many patients have a hard time coping with the fact that they’ve contracted a deadly disease. What’s more is that as a nurse, you’re required to be upfront and honest with the patient about the status of the disease and the short- and long-term implications, information which can be difficult for many to hear.

Communication: As an HIV/AIDS nurse, you’ll be tasked with communicating with your patients and their loved ones about the state of the disease, the medications that have been administered and about what the side effects are (if any) to those that have been prescribed. You’ll also be tasked with educating the community on HIV/AIDS and the best practices to follow to ensure that the general public is informed about it and knows how to minimize risk of contraction.

Listening: In addition to communicating and informing your patients, your patient’s loved ones and the public about HIV/AIDS, you also need to be a good listener. Every HIV/AIDS patient is different and reacts to treatments differently, so it’s important to know what they’re feeling and adjust treatment accordingly.

Monitoring: HIV/AIDS nurses often assist doctors with procedures and administer medication to patients. Noting this, they must have a keen eye for monitoring patients to ensure the operation or treatment is being coordinately appropriately.

Mental toughness: Like we noted above, HIV/AIDS are ultimately incurable diseases that impact all different kinds of people – from newborn babies to adults. Because of the disease’s deadly eventual outcome, HIV/AIDS nurses need to be prepared to handle death. For this reason, mental toughness is often a prerequisite when it comes to this nursing specialization, especially when it comes to young children.

Research comprehension: Because there’s so much ongoing research and development into HIV and AIDS treatments, new medications are being introduced into the medical market often. It’s also the task of the HIV/AIDS care nurse to understand the medications, be able to communicate research details of the medication and explain to the patient how it may be able to help them. This often involves taking complex, technical information and explaining it to the patient in layman’s terms.

HIV/AIDS Care Nurse Educational and Internship Requirements

First and foremost, if you want to be an HIV/AIDS care nurse, you first have to become a registered nurse. This is accomplished by either earning a Bachelor of Science in nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited university or by earning an Associate Degree where an equal amount of instruction and experience is gained. Following completion of the coursework involved in degree requirements, you then must pass the NCLEX-RN exam, which is mandatory of all nurses in the United States in order to become a registered nurse, or RN.

After you become an RN, you then need to take and pass an ACRN, or AIDS Certified Registered Nurse, exam. In order to qualify to take this exam, you must have accrued at least 200 hours’ worth of training in the field. The key reason why RNs are required to take the ACRN to become officially certified as an HIV/AIDS care nurse is due to the nature of the position, especially as it pertains to helping patients cope both emotionally and physically with the impact of such a diagnosis and/or treatment. Though it isn’t required for employment, would-be HIV/AIDS care nurses can also take relevant offered classes while in college to help them to gauge whether this specialized care of nursing is one that’s worth pursuing.

Aside from the education requirements involved in becoming an RN and the experience that’s necessary to qualify to take the ACRN exam, there are no internships that would-be HIV/AIDS care nurses are required to take to be eligible for employment.

Nursing Scholarships

American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) American Cancer Society Doctoral Degree Scholarships in Cancer Nursing The Gates Millenium Scholars (GMS) National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)
New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) Nurse Corps Scholarship (NCS) Nurses of Tomorrow
Nursing Economics Foundation Tylenol Future Care Scholarship American Holistic Nurses Association

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