How to Become a Nephrologist

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Nephrology is a discipline of internal medicine that focuses on the kidney and related conditions and diseases. Nephrologists are specially trained medical doctors that are experts on treating patients with conditions related to the kidneys and other related areas.


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What does a nephrologist do?

Nephrologists diagnose and treat a variety of conditions such as kidney disease, electrolyte disorders, high blood pressure, and kidney stones. They perform many different types of tests to assist in diagnosis and treatments such as blood tests, urine tests, biopsies, ultrasounds, and placement of catheters. They review the medical history or patients and discuss test results and treatment options. Nephrologists provide many different treatments such as regulating electrolytes and blood pressure, medication, and administering dialysis. They monitor and evaluate the condition of the patient and address and issues or concerns.

What kind of training does a nephrologist need?

Nephrologists must complete undergraduate education, medical school, residency training, and fellowship training. Medical school provides intensive classroom and laboratory instruction and clinical rotations in all major medical areas. After completion of medical school prospective nephrologists must complete residency training in internal medicine and pass the American Board of Internal Medicine certification examination before they can pursue nephrology training. After successful passing of the examination they must be accepted into a nephrology fellowship program. Nephrology fellowship programs must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and typically take 2 to 3 years to complete. All states require nephrologists to be licensed to practice. Licensing requirements include completion of medical school and residency and fellowship training and passing a written examination. Nephrologists must stay up to date on current advancements in the field and often complete continuing education throughout their careers.

What are the prospects for a career as a nephrologist?

Employment of all physicians is expected to grow faster than average for all professions, increasing 14% from 2006 to 2016 (1). A growing population and increased need for nephrology services will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be good especially for nephrologists with specialty training and extensive experience. Many job openings will stem from the need to replace nephrologists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do nephrologists make?

As of November 2009, the middle 50% of nephrologists earn annual salaries between $185,219 and $253,168. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $288,373 (2).

A career as a nephrologist is a great choice for individuals with a strong interest in nephrology and providing care to many different patients. Nephrologists must have a solid understanding of nephrology and the diagnosis and treatment of a variety of conditions. They must have excellent bedside manner and ability to put patients at ease. Patience, determination, detail orientation, and self-motivation are essential characteristics. Nephrologists must also have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and be able to work under pressure and make quick decisions in emergency situations.

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