As with any nursing specialty, urology nurses are experts in one area, but the opportunities to practice urology nursing are varied and range from offices to research labs or boardrooms to the halls of government.
Urology nurses work across the lifespan, meaning they can treat patients of any age with urologic symptoms and conditions. The specialty offers nurses direct patient care work while also affording nurses opportunities to become involved in advocacy for urologic nursing processes involving patients and nurses. Urologic nurses are also able to venture into research if they are interested in that path. They are able to use their nursing education and their passion to find more and better treatments and cures for patients who could have conditions including bladder cancer or severe kidney stones.
Urologic nurses may start out with direct patient care in any variety of settings, but the day-to-day work will look different for each nurse. Some will work in an office setting where they will begin to establish relationships with patients and their families. Because some conditions require treatment and care for years, those patients and nurses will begin to develop the close bonds that lead to a trusting professional association. Some nurses may choose to work across several offices and will be able to treat patients of all ages while others find a particular interest in treating specific ages and will be able to choose to work with those populations.
Urology nurses are also needed in surgical units where they will care for patients who are undergoing or recovering from a procedure. These nurses are proficient in pre- and post-op care which includes wound care, pain management, home care, and necessary follow up treatments.
Other roles that are filled by nurses with a urology nursing background include a clinical nurse who might manage patient care in a research study. Nurse educators can use their skills, knowledge, and credentials to teach the next generation of nurses in an academic setting or within a facility. They can also use their commitment to patient health and to wellness and work with local, state, and federal government officials to raise awareness and distribute education about common urological conditions and treatments. They can advocate for increased spending and research in areas of specific interest to their patient population such as those with prostate cancer, recurring urinary tract infections, and some reproductive cancers.
To keep up-to-date with the most current knowledge, urology nurses should continue to gain certification and to acquire knowledge through seminars and readings. Meeting with other urology nurses through an organization like SUNA offers a feeling of professional connection and also personal fulfillment.
Hull didn’t start her career in this specialty. She is a women’s health nurse practitioner by training, and she thought she would care for pregnant women for her entire career. About 15 years ago, while still seeking a niche in OB/GYN, a friend convinced her to try continence work, she says.
“I had no real understanding of continence issues and the real, devastating concerns incontinent patients experience,” Hull says. “However, as I stated, my friend and colleague convinced me to pursue this transition. I have not regretted that decision.”
In her practice as a urology nurse, Hull says her work can make a significant impact on her patients’ quality of life. Because patients with urologic conditions are often limited in the activities they can participate in without symptoms, the conditions can impact their physical, emotional, and mental health.
“Urologic concerns can arise during all phases of one’s life and affect men, women, and children,” she says. Hull says those in her profession offer education and care to enhance patients’ well being and sense of control over what may seem as uncontrollable issues and diagnoses.
Urologic Nurses Needed to Meet Demand
With such comprehensive care needed, Hull says urologic nurse staffing issues are pressing. “With fewer and fewer dedicated urology floors in hospitals, the hospital nursing staff are at risk of reduced education and reduced opportunities to achieve the needed skills to enable them to expertly care for their patients,” she says. “Without true, dedicated nursing education within our schools of nursing, the necessity falls to senior nurses to train new staff as well as our nursing organizations, such as SUNA.”
Luckily, Hull says the developments in the field are rapid, but nurses and associates in the field will need to continually fine-tune their skills and expand their knowledge to provide up-to-date care.
“Efforts to better understand the environment of the bladder are helping to better treat and prevent infections,” she says. “New and better surgical and non-surgical techniques are helping to provide improved outcomes for patients with such conditions as urologic cancers, pelvic organ prolapse, and incontinence.”
Getting Ahead in Urologic Nursing
Nurses interested in the career of urologic nursing should seek out mentors they can learn from. Seeking out professional development, education out of the place of work, and networking will help nurses in their careers and will keep them current.
“SUNA provides urology education for MAs, LPNs, RNs, and advanced practice providers, such as NPs, PAs, and CNSs,” says Hull. The organization also has 29 local chapters nationwide where urologic nurses can find additional opportunities for education, and they can attend the Annual UroLogic conference or Advanced UroLogic Conference. SUNA has also developed the Scopes and Standards for Urologic Nursing which helps to define the specialty.
Having a positive impact on her patients’ lives keeps Hull enthusiastic and she encourages other nurses to consider this specialty.
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