Nurse Types / HIV/AIDS Nurse
HIV/AIDS nurses serve patients whose very lives depend on accurate symptom monitoring and the right balance of prescription medications.
HIV/AIDs has infected 38 million people globally. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), 1.2 million Americans live with HIV. One of the innovative ways health care organizations have improved the lives of those living with HIV was by developing a new field of nursing professionals known as HIV/AIDS nurses.
HIV/AIDS nurses administer antiretroviral therapy and provide emotional support to patients living with this autoimmune disease as part of their duties.
In this article you can learn:
- What is am HIV/AIDS nurse?
- What do HIV/AIDS nurses do?
- Where do HIV/AIDS nurses work?
- What are closely related fields?
- How do you become an HIV/AIDS nurse in 3 steps?
- What are additional requirements of HIV/AIDS nurses?
- What are the salary and career outlooks for HIV/AIDS nurses?
What is an HIV/AIDS nurse?
An HIV/AIDS nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who provides care for patients in various stages of HIV and AIDS. From educating the newly-diagnosed to providing hospice care for those at the end stages of the disease, HIV/AIDS nurses must be prepared to handle the full life cycle of the disease. They not only act as caregivers, but they also serve as educators and patient advocates.
Qualities of a successful HIV/AIDS nurse
Thanks to additional research about HIV/AIDS, we now know how it is transmitted. However, if you’re thinking of becoming an HIV/AIDS nurse, the most important qualities you need to be successful at your job are compassion and empathy.
Other important characteristics include:
- Attention to detail
- Ability to collaborate with other members of the healthcare team
- Ability to communicate with patients and their caregivers
What do HIV/AIDS nurses do?
AIDS/HIV nurses have many duties. One minute you may find yourself working with a newly diagnosed patient to help them understand their condition. The next, you could be providing emotional support and counseling services to the patient’s loved ones.
Because patients with HIV/AIDs receive potent antiretroviral therapy, HIV/AIDs nurses may monitor their treatment protocols and adjust as needed.
A day in the life of an HIV/AIDS nurse
A typical day in the life of an HIV/AIDS nurse depends on where you work. For nurses employed by acute care facilities, hospitals, and private physicians’ offices, they spend the bulk of their days:
- Conducting physical exams of new or existing patients
- Documenting medical information, including any symptom management changes
- Performing complete blood count testing
- Screening for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)
HIV/AIDS nurses who work in hospice or palliative care settings assist patients with daily living tasks and pain management.
Common conditions treated by AID/HIV nurses
In addition to treating patients for the HIV/AIDS autoimmune disorder, nurses in this field also help their patients manage a variety of illnesses that can affect them when they have HIV/AIDS. Some of the illnesses common for AIDS/HIV patients include:
- Candidiasis (thrush)
- Cryptococcal meningitis
- Pneumocystis pneumonia
Patients also can experience side effects from the antiretroviral therapy. HIV/AIDS nurses can help with management of symptoms that include:
- Hair loss
- Loss of appetite
Where do HIV/AIDS nurses work?
HIV/AIDS nurses work in several healthcare settings accessed by patients with this autoimmune disorder. They can work in:
- Community health clinics.
- Drug and alcohol treatment centers.
- Mobile HIV/AIDS testing centers.
- State agencies specializing in HIV/AIDS care, clinical research, and education.
Long-term care facilities also hire HIV/AIDS nurses to work with patients living with the disorder to improve their quality of life.
What are closely related fields?
If you have a passion for working with people with HIV/AIDS but don’t want to pursue a nursing career, you have options. One the closely related fields is HIV/AIDS counselor.
Patients must learn to live with more than the physical effects of having this autoimmune disorder. Having HIV/AIDS can cause significant psychological issues, especially for people who have experienced discrimination because of their medical condition.
HIV/AIDS counselors must have a bachelor’s degree in counseling and pass an exam that gives them a licensed professional counselor (LPC) designation.
How do you become an HIV/AIDS nurse in 3 steps?
Becoming an HIV/AIDS nurse requires the right level of nursing education and licensure.
Step 1 – Become a registered nurse
To work as an HIV/AIDS nurse, you must first become a registered nurse (RN). You must meet certain education requirements and pass a licensing exam before you can practice as an RN.
Earn a degree
Most people choose between an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) and a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. An ADN takes between 18 and 24 months to complete when attending full time. A BSN takes about 4 years from start to finish when attending full time.
Most nurses in this role hold bachelor’s degrees. Regardless of whether you pursue an associate’s or bachelor’s degree, you must become a registered nurse (RN).
If you’re already a registered nurse who wants to pursue an advanced degree, you can enroll in an RN-to-BSN degree program to fast-track your education.
If you hold a bachelor’s degree in an unrelated discipline and want to transition to nursing, you can enroll in an Accelerated BSN program.
Pass the NCLEX exam
After you complete your nursing education, you must pass the NCLEX exam. The NCLEX exam is designed to evaluate your nursing knowledge. Questions increase in difficulty with every correct answer you provide.
If you fail the NCLEX on your first attempt, you can take it again after a 45-day waiting period.
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Step 2 – Accumulate experience
Once you’re a licensed RN, you can gain some relevant experience. Some nurses choose to work in an RN role in any healthcare setting. However, there are some healthcare settings that are more advantageous than others, like ICUs and hospice care.
Helpful skills and experience
Working in an environment where you have regular exposure to patients with infectious diseases can make you a strong candidate for HIV/AIDS nursing roles.
Changing specialty to an HIV/AIDS nurse
If you’re already working as a nurse but need a change in pace or environment, you can change your specialty to an HIV/AIDS nurse.
Let’s say you’re currently a pediatric nurse. You like working with children, but you want to challenge yourself. You can switch from pediatric nursing to an HIV/AIDS pediatric nursing specialty by taking continuing education courses that focus on HIV/AIDS treatment for this age demographic.
The final step in your transformation into an HIV/AIDS nurse requires obtaining the AIDS Certified Registered Nurse designation.
Step 3 – Obtain certifications
HIV/AIDS nurses must obtain the AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (ACRN) credential to practice in their specialty. You earn the designation by passing an exam.
However, you must first complete 200 hours of training at the HIV/AIDS level before you qualify to take the exam. The ACRN exam measures your ability to cope with the job’s emotional and physical demands.
What are additional requirements of HIV/AIDS nurses?
HIV/AIDS treatment evolves frequently. As an HIV/AIDS nurse, you must stay abreast of any changes for nursing best practices and treatment protocol for patients with this autoimmune disease. You can keep up with the latest in your specialty by taking continuing education courses.
You also must keep your RN licensure and ACRN certification updated. RN licenses must be renewed every 2 years. ACRN credentials expire after 5 years.
What are the salary and career outlooks for HIV/AIDS nurses?
The earning potential for AIDS/HIV nurses depends on experience, education, and location. Nationally, the average annual salary for this nursing specialty is $73,995 with and ADN. Those nurses with BSN degrees can expect to earn around the nurse national average of $82,750 or higher. You can use our tool to find the highest-paying cities for nurses if you need help deciding where to practice your new specialty.
Like all RNs, demand for AIDS/HIV nurses is expected to increase by 6% between 2021 and 2031.
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Working with HIV/AIDS patients can be emotionally draining for nurses, especially when providing hospice care services. To ensure you don’t become burned out – and dissatisfied – with your nursing career, it’s important to engage in self-care.
After you’ve worked in patient care as an HIV/AIDS nurse, you may want to explore career advancement opportunities. One of the most popular avenues is to go back to nursing school to earn your Master of Nursing Science (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP).
With an MSN or DNP, you can work in education or research, or continue to provide clinical care to patients with HIV/AIDS.
If you’re not sure of your next steps, you can always talk with our community of experienced nursing professionals. They’re standing by and ready to answer your questions.
An HIV/AIDS nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who provides care for patients in various stages of HIV and AIDS. They not only act as caregivers, but they also serve as educators and patient advocates.
The national average wage for HIV/AIDS nurses is $73,995. You can earn higher wages in certain locations and if you have higher education or experience in this nursing role.
You must complete either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and become a registered nurse (RN) by passing the NCLEX exam.
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- AIDS Certified Registered Nurse. nursesinaidscare.org. Accessed November 7, 2022.
- HIV/AIDS CARE Nurse Salary. ziprecruiter.com. Accessed November 7, 2022.
- National Counselor Examination. nbcc.org. Accessed November 7, 2022.
- NCLEX Application & Registration. ncsbn.org. Accessed November 7, 2022.
- Registered Nurses. bls.gov. Accessed November 7, 2022.
- Registered Nurses. Occupational Outlook Handbook. bls.gov. Accessed November 15, 2022.
- U.S. Statistics HIV. hiv.gov. Accessed November 7, 2022.