Registered nurses with many education backgrounds are found working in this field, from the diploma educated nurse to the doctoral educated nurse. This is one of the most mentally and emotionally challenging and multi-faceted fields of nursing. Nurses working in the field of HIV/AIDS are constantly researching, learning, studying, exchanging ideas and experiences to advance their own knowledge as well as the knowledge of the persons infected with HIV/AIDS and the families of those infected. The ultimate goal being to improve the care of individuals with HIV/AIDS and to educate the population in the prevention of further infection.
29 years after the first of HIV/AIDS was diagnosed in the United States research and treatment methods for infected persons are continuing to evolve. HIV/AIDS nurses must have a desire to stay current on research and be willing to interpret and implement findings into their practice. The areas of epidemiology, pathophysiology, grief and loss counseling, clinical manifestations, mental health, physical examinations, disease process and medication therapy are prominent skill sets and knowledge areas that an HIV/AIDS nurse should excel in. Certification as an AIDS Certified Registered Nurse (ACRN) is a career move that demonstrates the HIV/AIDS nurse's competency in the field as well as recognizing their professional achievement in the field. An interesting and necessary read for any nurse interested in this field or one that has begun working in the field of HIV/AIDS is a book put out by the Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC) titled, "Core Curriculum HIV/AIDS Nursing." The material in this book discusses much of the information a nurse will need to know to care for persons infected by HIV/AIDS as well as provides the content for the ACRN certification process.**
The Registered Nurse working in a correctional facility, clinic, AIDS Education and Training Center (AETC) or hospital, will be delivering care to individuals infected or affected with HIV/AIDS and counseling those involved promoting health and welfare strategies. They will also help infected persons with the administration of their medications. The medications available today are extremely complicated to take and have many painful adverse events and without a nurse's or other experienced health care provider's counseling about the medications the infected person's compliance has been found to be non-existent. The HIV/AIDS nurse is an integral part of the health care team and often has constant personal contact with infected persons from the time of diagnosis through the time the infected persons pass.
The Nurse Practitioner (NP) working in HIV/AIDS settings generally provides primary and specialty care to the infected person as well as counseling the person about their health and welfare and the medications the NP will be prescribing. Other roles an NP may find in this field include HIV/AIDS Education and Prevention, Community Health Care Manager, or Health Care Services Planner for HIV/AIDS care.* Nurses with master's and doctoral degrees in the field of nursing and HIV/AIDS work in education in addition to HIV/AIDS research or advanced practice. Education allows for more sharing of information and gives a fresh generation of nursing students a chance to expand their knowledge in HIV/AIDS nursing.
HIV/AIDS nurses ultimately aim to improve care of the infected and prevent further spread of HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS nurses are proud of what they do. They must work hard and study to maintain their credentials, which in turn keeps their knowledge and skill sets current. To learn more about this career visit the ANAC or HANCB websites.
If you are not yet a nurse, you may find reading about How to Become a Nurse an interesting starting point. This would be your first step toward a career as an HIV/AIDS nurse. For current nurses, you may be interested in pursuing an advanced degree, such as a Master's in Nursing that may open up some advanced nursing practice positions in HIV/AIDS nursing.
*UCSF School of Nursing HIV/AIDS Career Opportunities
** Association of Nurses in AIDS Care (ANAC)
Additional Resources: HANCB