What Does an HIV/AIDS Nurse Do?
HIV/AIDS nurses are specially trained to provide nursing care for patients with AIDS, a deadly, incurable disease that attacks a patient’s immune system. AIDS is the disease that results from contracting the HIV virus. Because AIDS has such a social stigma attached to it, patients often struggle with both emotional and physical symptoms. Therefore, usually part of the role of the HIV/AIDS nurse is to connect AIDS patients to support groups and services. One of an HIV/AIDS nurse’s biggest responsibilities is helping AIDS patients cope with and manage the disease. They speak with patients and their families on how to prevent the spread of AIDS, educate them on the effect of AIDS on their body, and discuss possible treatment options. HIV/AIDS nurses may also initiate a pain management plan for AIDS patients, helping to administer treatments and medications. Many HIV/AIDS nurses work in some capacity in community or public health, educating population groups who are at risk of infection about safe sex and the dangers of sharing needles.
How Can I Become an HIV/AIDS Nurse?
The first step toward becoming an HIV/AIDS nurse is to complete an approved nursing education program. The most common way of doing this is to earn a degree in nursing. Most people earn either an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited college or university. Less common is earning a nursing diploma, a program typically offered through hospitals. After completing a nursing program, all future nurses go on to take an exam called the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination) so they can become licensed to practice nursing in their state. After gaining experience as a staff nurse and later accumulating clinical experience working with AIDS patients, a nurse can proceed to become credentialed as an HIV/AIDS nurse by taking an exam. The most notable certification is the AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (ACRA) credential offered through the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care.
What Is the Career and Salary Outlook for an HIV/AIDS Nurse?
The career outlook for nurses overall is excellent, and those who specialize in a particular area of health care, such as AIDS treatment, are often highly sought-after. Employment of registered nurses is projected to grow by 22 percent between 2008 and 2018, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The average annual salary for an HIV/AIDS nurse is $51,000, according to SimplyHired.com, a site that calculates average salaries based on what is listed in the job postings it receives. However, a number of factors can affect a nurse’s salary, including how many years of experience you have, what certifications you have (being an ACRA can lead to higher salaries), what region of the U.S. you live in, and whether you are working in a metropolitan or rural area. Advanced practice nurses (who are trained at the master’s level) also earn significantly higher salaries on average.