What is a nephrologist?
A nephrologist is a physician who works in the field of nephrology which is the study of the kidneys and the diseases that can affect the kidney and renal area in both pediatric and adults. Nephrology is also a subspecialty of internal medicine. They will run tests, do examinations and look at the patient’s symptoms in order to diagnosis and manage whatever kidney disease they have. There are some who think that a nephrologist and an urologist are one in the same but they are not. As mentioned a nephrologist is the physician to see if you have a kidney disorder or disease and an urologist is the physician who specializes in diseases and disorders of the reproductive system of men and the urinary tract for everyone.
Job description of a nephrologist
Being a nephrologist there is one important thing to remember and that is they cannot perform any type of surgical procedure except for kidney transplants. A nephrologist can also manage dialysis programs and centers. They deal with any disease of the kidney or renal area that affects the patient’s entire body like kidney stones or renal failure. They will also treat a patient who has high blood pressure, substance abuse, and diabetes as all three of these can affect the way your kidneys function. When becoming a nephrologist they will also have training in some aspects of internal medicine so they will know what the effects of kidney disease has on other organs of the body. Going into this field they can also specialize in pediatric nephrology, which is the field that deals exclusively with the renal area and kidney diseases or disorders in children.
Some of the common kidney diseases or disorders that a nephrologist might treat include:
- Chronic urinary tract infections caused by a problem with your kidney(s) because normally a urologist treats urinary tract infections
- Acute kidney failure
- Chronic kidney disease
- Imbalances in the electrolytes and fluids in your body
- High blood pressure
- Acid based disorders
- Mineral metabolism
- Acute and chronic renal failure along with end stage renal disease and dialysis
How to become a nephrologist?
As with any career in the medical field they should take as many science and math classes that they can while in high school. Once they graduate from high school they will need to enroll in a college to get their 4 year bachelor’s degree. Most who are planning on attending medical school will major in biology or pre-med studies in order to have a fundamental understanding of physiology, human health, and anatomy. In order to get into medical school they will have to pass the Medical School Admissions Test with a high score because medical schools tend to be very selective. Because they are so selective they need to make sure that they have the strongest grades and recommendation letters. They may also have to have an admissions interview.
Once they have gotten into medical school it will take 4 years to complete. They will have classroom study, clinical internship, and laboratory time. Depending on the medical school they are attending they may have to conduct independent research on a topic that is related to medicine. Then they will have to compose a detailed dissertation to earn their doctoral degree. They will also have to pass the United States Medical Licensing Exam to get their license.
Once they have graduated from medical school they will have a Medical Doctor degree and they can apply for a residency position in internal medicine. This will take another 3 years to complete and will enable them to be able to practice under the supervision of a licensed and established physician. While treating patients they will continue to conduct research and take courses. At the end of the residency they will take the American Board of Internal Medicine (ABIM) exam to become certified in internal medicine but this is not the end of their training if they want to become a nephrologist. Now they will have to complete a 2-3 year nephrology fellowship that is accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME). Getting into a fellowship is also very competitive so the more accomplishments they have the more likely they will be to get the nephrology fellowship of their choice. If they know where they want to do their fellowship they should start applying at least 12 months in advance.
In this fellowship the will be working alongside an experienced nephrologist in a specialty clinic or hospital so they will have the chance to become familiar with common kidney disorders and disease and the renal area. They will also learn the best way to diagnosis and treat any diseases or disorders. They will learn about mineral metabolism, how to manage acute kidney failure, dialysis, management of chronic kidney disease, and more. While in the fellowship they will take the second part of the United States Medical Licensing Exam. They must also have 3 letters of recommendation.
They will have to take the American Board of Internal Medicine exam again and once they have passed they will have their certification in nephrology stating they are a certified nephrologist. This certification is good for 10 years. They can maintain certification by getting continuing education credits that the ABIM deem creditable. Although it is not required to become a licensed nephrologist they can also become board certified with the American Society of Nephrology.
Work environment and schedule
A nephrologist usually builds up their practice by taking patients that have been referred to them from their primary care physician. A primary care physician may refer a patient to a nephrologist because they have abnormality of their kidney function, metabolic disorder, or any other problems with their kidneys or renal area.
When they meet a new patient the nephrologist will review the information sent over to them from the patient’s primary care physician and when the patient arrives for their appointment the nephrologist will conduct a detailed physical examination. Once the exam is done they will decide if the patient needs to have blood drawn and/or a urine sample taken to check how their kidneys are functioning, biopsy done, or diagnostic imaging tests. If any of these are done when the results come in the nephrologist will look at them and then have the patient come back to get the result. At this appointment the doctor will discuss with the patient the results of any diagnostic imaging or tests that they had done, what the results mean, and what the plan of treatment will be.
The plan of treatment can involve having to take medication, making dietary changes, sending them to a specialist for surgery if needed, and more. They may schedule follow-up visits or tell them to check in with their primary care physician. They may also do kidney ultrasounds, catheter placements, etc. If the patient needs dialysis they will help them to set up the times to have this done and then the doctor will see them several times a month to make sure that everything is going along okay. Because they have received training in internal medicine some nephrologist will treat their patients for other problems besides having kidney problems.
Some nephrologist may work a regular work day Monday thru Friday, but most of the time they work long hours. If they work at a clinic or for a hospital they may rotate with any other nephrologists who are working at being on-call for emergencies. Those who work at a hospital may also find themselves working overtime and on weekends. They may find themselves at times working as many as 60 hours a week and even if they are in private practice they may find themselves being called if one of their patients is admitted to the hospital.
A nephrologist can work in dialysis and kidney centers, general medical centers, in private practice or as a part of a group practice with other nephrologists or as a member of a group practice that are specialists in the same general field such as urologists, pediatric nephrologists, general medicine, and internal medicine, work in a lab performing tests, work in research, or in a teaching position. If they work in a dialysis center they may have the role of management and have a say in how it is run, what the procedures and policies are, and what employees are needed to work at the center.
Pros and cons of being a nephrologist
Working as a nephrologist is not an easy job to do since you’ll have to give a clear and clean diagnosis related with the patient kidneys diseases. As a nephrologist, you’ll have to be very sure when you present a patient with a test result after interpreting it.
This job is as well very rewarding since you’ll be the principal aid when establishing a plan of care developed after a serious examination of the medication of a person and his medical history. With slow steps, you’ll be the main provider for a patient new lifestyle and an incorporated diet. Not every case in an easy one and many will need even transplants in order to survive so giving the bad news is not always something great to be a part of.
The earning for someone working as a nephrologist are pretty good since the median average salary in US is estimated at $209,010 per year. The educational requirements are like in any other medical field, and the costs can be very highly estimated due to the years of study.
To become a nephrologist, you’ll need to gain a premedical Bachelor’s degree and then complete a four years training in a medical college learning the classroom and practical instruction. The next move will be to graduate from a three-year residency based on internal medicine and then become a board-certified internist.
The last step will be to finish a two years training in a specialized fellowship where you’ll be studying nephrology and in the end you’ll take some more sets of board exams. This way is not an easy one and engaging in this career with all the years of study can be a huge con due to the loans that you’ll need to do. You’ll start to earn a good salary after you’ve paid all your loans. Still, for who is willing to make a difference in the lives of many subjects who suffer this job is the best choice.
The job is very demanding, and the stress factor will not miss due to the environment and the determinations that have to be made in time. Having to work with people that are in pain is not always a very easy thing to do. You’ll need good communicational skills developed and the balance of keeping calm and influencing the patient to a relaxing state.
Nephrologist Job Growth
If we are to speak about the job growth of a nephrologist the percentage that is granted in this particular field seems to be quite promising. The growth rate for these professionals has an estimation rate of around 13% for the next couple of years and even a little bit more.
However, many that searched for a job remained a little bit on the outside since the reality does not seem to fulfill the expectations that are posted. This is due mainly to the number of demanding and other crucial factors that affect in a present way the job outlook and the opportunities that are available.
Searching jobs in the most lucrative part of the United States can be a good point to start. One are that can be taken into consideration if you would be available to move from one state to another can be found in the Northwest. To this, you can add the region of Alaska, with a yearly average estimated income of around $320,010 per year. Obviously, not anyone would move to Alaska, but it’s a good option given the payment. Other regions could be found in California and Hawaii where the average yearly income is estimated at around $274,015 per year.
Still it will depend a lot on the job positions that are available in that particular region or location and the industries that offer the job openings, not to mention the earlier reminded factors that have a very obvious word to say when it comes to this field.
Working as a nephrologist is a very important specialty within the medical profession so their average yearly salary can be quite high. The kidneys are some of the most important organs in your body and these are the doctors that work with their patients to help ensure that they restore function to the kidneys if at all possible. In the United States for a nephrologist that is well trained and has experience they can on average have a yearly salary of $212,000. How much a nephrologist will make of course depend on a variety of factors. It depends on the type of place where they are working, how much experience they have on the job which is a very important factor in regards to the salary, the geographical location, their level of education, how many work in the place where they work, their job title, and more.
For a nephrologist just out of his fellowship they can earn on average a yearly salary of $170,000 but it will increase with more experience. Although the increase is not a lot, on average it is around $20,000 because with 5 years experience you will average $190,000 a year. Once you have 20 years in you will be at the top average salary which could be more than $278,000 a year.
There are also the extra benefits that a nephrologist gets. What they would be would depend on where they were working but generally these would include vacation days, sick days, personal days, cell phones or a stipend if their job requires them to be on call, pension, social security, 401K, life insurance, health insurance, malpractice insurance, profit sharing, bonuses, and other benefits that might come with their job title.
The most lucrative part of the United States for a nephrologist to work would be in the northwest and this does include Alaska. The average yearly salary in this part of the United States for nephrologist was $320.000. In Hawaii and California the average yearly salary was $274,00. The lowest average yearly salary for a nephrologist was $164,000 and that was in the northeast part of the United States.
Salary of a nephrologist in 2015
A median starting salary in the US for a nephrologist is estimated to reach $133,705 per year, and you can increase your salary by gathering as much as work experience as you can get. Making a name among other nephrologists can take you to a well-stabilized income. The salary many times can reach an amount that is estimated between $152,890 per year and could go up to a salary at about $229,215 per year. For 2015, a nephrologist salary is influenced by many factors among which the work facility, the high or lower paying states should be considered. The region in which one of these specialists are working, and the number of cases that are present on a daily base will also influence wages.
Nephrologist Salary in 2016
A nephrologist income in 2016, in the United States, is mainly influenced by several major and decisive factors, such as the geographical region or location in which one individual has found work. It also depends on the years of experience at the working site, the industry and let’s not forget the job title and the level of education that one has reached and other as well.
The income is influenced in the year 2016 like in the earlier years based on the starting point. For instance, the median salary in the US for a nephrologist is estimated to be around $133,890 per year more or less. From this point, you can work and gather experience that will lead to a constant increase in your earnings. Another point in a higher earning is lead and established mainly by the cases that you are dealing with on a daily base.
A great income with a huge stability in the line of work is also granted when you already started to build a reputation and a name among other nephrologists. The average income is many times comprised between $152,910 per year and $229,219 per year or even higher.
To all these, you can add the extra benefits that nephrologists are granted with. Even though the extra benefits depend a lot based on the setting in which these professionals are working the general part is that it usually comes with included vacation days and even sick days. In other cases if their job assumes to be on call, it will include life insurance, bonuses, profit sharing, health insurance, 401K and many other that become present once with the job title.
Nephrologist salary in Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom
If you do not want to set up practice as a nephrologist in the United States but instead want to practice abroad, here are the average yearly nephrologist salary for Canada, Australia, and the UK.
- Canada—if you were employed in a private clinic or hospice the average yearly nephrologist salary would be much higher than working in a medical school which the average yearly salary is C$350,000.
- Australia—working as a public intern in Australia the average yearly nephrologist salary would be AU$56,768. If you were working as an OPD consultant or renal specialist the average yearly salary would be AU$210,102 but the actual amount would be based on their work experience in either of these two jobs.
- UK—if the nephrologist is in their 20’s their average yearly salary would be 45,000, in their 30’s it would be 58,800, and in their 40’s and 50’s it would be 69,600.
Conclusion on nephrologist salary
In the United States the average yearly starting salary for a nephrologist is $106,960-$160,440 but as they become more established and have more experience the average yearly nephrologist salary would be $152,800-$229,200. Working in a dialysis center as the management director or just as a nephrologist even the starting salary may be higher. If you work in a larger city versus a small rural area in the northwest instead of the northeast the salary would be more. Although a nephrologist might like the idea of having their own practice it might be more beneficial to work in a group practice, a clinic, as a teacher, in a hospital, or as a researcher because then they would not have all that overhead such as rent, utilities, employee salaries, insurance, benefits, etc. All of this would lower the average yearly nephrologist salary.
- First Published Date: 16 May, 2014
- Last Updated Date: 3 October, 2016