Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). It is a disease attacks the cells in the body’s immune system, rendering them useless for fighting off infections and illnesses. Currently, it is one of the most deadly and frightening medical conditions on the planet.
According to recent studies, over 30 million people are infected with HIV today, and although there have been major breakthroughs in research, there is still no cure in sight. However, this does not mean that AIDS victims are doomed to a life of uncomfortable misery. With the drugs and other treatments available today, it’s not uncommon for AIDS patients to live for several years before symptoms of the disease begin to become noticeable.
AIDS care nurses are some of the most prominent caregivers in the lives of many AIDS patients. These dedicated nursing professionals typically administer medications, educate patients and communities, act as patient advocates, or even just offer a shoulder to cry on when times get tough.
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What is an AIDS Care Nurse?
Just as their title suggests, AIDS care nurses care for patients suffering from all different stages of HIV and AIDS. They not only act as caregivers, but also as educators and advocates as well.
Before you consider working in this field, it’s important to rid yourself of all of the myths surrounding this disease. Due to the nature of the work, it takes a special sort of person to become an AIDS care nurse. Along with basic nursing skills and excellent communication skills, you should also be a sincerely compassionate and non-judgemental person.
During your career, you will be working with all types of patients, who are all different ages, genders, races, and classes. For example, one moment you may be treating a patient that contracted this disease from sharing hypodermic needles, and the next you may be treating a patient that contracted it from her husband. You must also be prepared to treat infants and young children who contracted the disease from their mothers during childbirth.
Emotional maturity is also a must if you’re looking to become an AIDS care nurse. Although treatments for AIDS today are considered superior to those from 25 years ago, there is still no cure for this disease. Therefore, you must be able to deal with the loss of a patient in a healthy manner. If death is something that bothers you immensely, perhaps becoming an AIDS care nurse isn’t the best choice for you.
What do AIDS Care Nurses Do?
AIDS care nurses step into many roles during their career.
First and foremost, they act as caregivers and medical professionals. They monitor patients and keep track of any changes in a patient’s health, for instance. This typically involves performing a thorough physical examination as well as collecting blood samples. AIDS care nurse will also usually assist physicians during procedures and administer medications designed to help keep the virus at bay.
One of the most effective treatments for HIV and AIDS is known as highly active antiretroviral therapy, or HAART. This treatment consists of a veritable cocktail of potent antiretroviral drugs. Unfortunately, while very effective, HAART treatments also have a number of downsides that AIDS doctors and nurses must address. For instance, these drugs can cause several very uncomfortable side effects, including severe nausea, unusual weight gain, hyperglycemia, and liver toxicity. Because of this, some patients may choose to skip doses. Not only can this cause the HIV virus to regain control of a patient’s body, but it can also even create resistant strains of the virus that are much more difficult to treat.
As an AIDS care nurse, you will often need to address problems patients have with their medications. For instance, you might offer tips to help manage side effects and you may also need to help patients develop a dosing schedule.
Since AIDS weakens a patient’s immune system, they are much more suceptible to contracting other infections, which are known as opportunistic infections. While many of these infections might be uncomfortable yet harmless to individuals with healthy immune systems, they can they can cause serious complication or even death in an AIDS patient. As an AIDS care nurse, you will often find yourself treating these secondary infections, such as pneumonia, menengitis, tuberculosis, and even the common cold.
AIDS care nurses also act as educators as well. They are often faced with the task of teaching both patients and their loved ones about the disease and how to keep themselves and others safe. Some AIDS care nurses may even speak out in schools and communities. During these campaigns, AIDS nurses often try to teach people exactly what HIV and AIDS are and how to protect themselves.
Where do AIDS Care Nurses Work?
Hospitals, clinics, and specialists’ offices are often the most likely facilities that employ AIDS care nurses. However, these nurses can also often find employment in community health centers, assisted living facilities, home care agencies, and hospice care centers. Some organizations also have paid and volunteer openings for AIDS care nurses and similar medical professionals that wish to travel to developing countries, where this virus is much more common.
How do I Become an AIDS Care Nurse?
In order to become an AIDS care nurse, you will have to first earn a nursing diploma or degree and become a registered nurse (RN). While earning your degree, taking additional courses in AIDS and HIV can be very helpful when trying to land a position as an AIDS care nurse. Some employers don’t require any formal education in this area, but many of them do.
Below is the educational path for an AIDS Care Nurse (lowest to highest level of education)
|Educational Track||School Programs||Average Education Length||Choosing Online or Campus|
|Earn a Bachelors Degree||View Programs||4 Years||Online or Campus|
|Earn a MSN Degree||View Programs||2 Additional Years||Online or Campus|
|Earn a PHD or DNP||View Programs||2-4 Additional Years||Online or Campus|
To become a certified AIDS care nurse, at least two years of experience working with AIDS patients is recommended but not always mandatory. After you gain some experience in the field, you can then sit for the AIDS care nurse certification examination, which is offered by the HIV/AIDS Nursing Certification Board.