Purpose and Mission
Medical doctors specializing in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the kidney and urinary system are called nephrologists or renal medicine specialists. A nephrologist typically treats patients with medical problems such as inflammation of the kidneys, kidney stones, chronic kidney disease, or cancer.
Some nephrologists specialize further in the treatment of specific age groups. Pediatric nephrologists, for example, usually only treat infants and children. Depending on the case, they may consult with other doctors for short-term illnesses or procedures, such as a kidney biopsy. In other cases, they may serve as the main medical point of contact for patients who have long-term kidney conditions or who require regular kidney dialysis.
Most nephrologists choose to work in a private practise, so most will not have a direct supervisor. Those who are employees of hospitals, clinics and retirement facilities often report to a department head or service chief.
Nephrologists frequently have significant supervisory responsibilities, notably in terms of training and evaluating residents and other members of the healthcare team. More experienced physicians often serve on the management boards of their practices.
All medical doctors earn an undergraduate degree and then complete medical school to earn an MD. After all that schooling, new physicians undertake a three- or four-year clinical residency program working with experienced colleagues.
Doctors who want to specialize in renal medicine then begin a two- or three-year specialized training program in internal medicine after to earn a fellowship in the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (FRACP).
Keep in mind that doctors must register with both the Medical Board of Australia (MBA) to practise, and with the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency (AHPRA), which works to provide administrative and policy support for the National Health Practitioners Boards.
Responsibilities of a Nephrologist
Nephrologists spend a good bit of time in ordering and interpreting a wide variety of diagnostic tests, confirming the presence of kidney disease and determining the severity.
One of the primary duties of a nephrologist is setting up a plan of care for patients. A plan of care is designed to slow the progress of kidney disease, and includes diet and lifestyle changes, and careful review of medications. That’s because a number of drugs used to treat other diseases can make kidney disease worse. A nephrologist reviews all of a patient’s medications to assess risks and identify potentially harmful interactions between drugs. In most cases, they must also coordinate patient care with other healthcare professionals.
If the kidneys become impaired, a nephrologist will often prescribe a course of dialysis, which cleanses the blood in a machine similarly to a kidney. However, a notable percentage of patients ultimately require a kidney transplant. While the transplant surgery is performed by a urologist, the nephrologist is responsible for managing the patient’s care before and after the surgery.
Nephrologist Jobs and Employers