What is a Nephrologist?

NephrologistWhen researching different medical professions, you may come across the word "nephrologist" and wonder about what a nephrologist is. What do these professionals practice that sets them apart? Most medical specialty titles include the name of their specialty within the title itself, and nephrology is no different. In Greek, the word "nephros" means "kidney" or "renal." The suffix –ology means "a subject of study," and an –ologist is someone who studies a specific field of knowledge. A person who studies kidneys, then, is called a nephrologist.

Tasks and Responsibilities

Despite the straightforward definition of nephrology, these doctors actually diagnose, treat and manage a variety of conditions related to the kidney. Your kidneys are responsible for several important bodily functions, including filtering your blood to generate waste and sending that waste to the bladder in the form of urine. If something goes wrong in transit, then there could be a problem with the kidney. This is where a nephrologist steps in. As medical doctors with a specific focus, they're trained to identify kidney problems and the side effects that come with renal issues. For example, hypertension, which is chronic high blood pressure, can indicate serious problems in renal function. Nephrologists perform tests to check how well your kidneys are performing, but they don't handle surgery. These medical professionals engage in diagnostic services and oversee treatments such as dialysis.

How to Become a Nephrologist

Like all medical doctors, nephrologists need extensive education, training and licensing in order to practice. In addition to completing medical school, nephrologists must attend up to eight years of post-college training and education in order to study nephrology. Candidates for the nephrologist designation spend three years in an internal medicine residency program, two to three years in a fellowship program after completing the residency requirement, and one to two years conducting research in a clinical setting. They must also be certified by the American Board of Internal Medicine, and their fellowship program must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. Nephrologists can also specialize in pediatric nephrology by completing additional certification.

Professional Outlook

A nephrologist is considered a specialist career position within the field of internal medicine. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, physicians and surgeons in general will see an increase in the number of jobs available. By 2022, the number of jobs will grow by 18 percent, which is faster than the average for other jobs. In terms of salary, the base pay for physicians and surgeons was $187,200 or $90 per hour in 2012. Nephrologists may earn a higher salary, because they specialize in a specific field, but actual pay will depend on your location and experience level. Many older Americans suffer from kidney-related problems. People who pursue nephrology as a career option should enjoy continued job growth and career stability.

Related Resource: Neurologist

Nephrologists enjoy a unique position among internal medicine practitioners, because they specialize in a specific organ. With extensive training and education, these professionals have a high level of experience that allows them to diagnose, treat and monitor patients with difficult diseases. Kidney problems can indicate other issues, and it's important for specialists to take an active role in identifying these potential risks. If you're wondering what a nephrologist is, then it's important to know that these doctors treat kidney problems.

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