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.
Urology professionals help care for patients who have various conditions and diseases relating to the urinary tract and often the reproductive system as well. They may treat conditions that impact bladder control or those that are extremely painful, like kidney stones. Urology nurses also treat forms of cancer that involve the urinary tract or the reproductive organs that may be involved such as bladder cancer or prostate cancer.
Urology patients are sometimes reluctant to openly discuss their symptoms are they relate to topics many societies consider more private, such as incontinence or sexual dysfunction. Urology nurses are able to care for the patient with their medical skills, but also must work carefully to assess the patient and understand the full story of how their condition is impacting their daily lives. Even though kidney stones aren’t life-threatening, the repercussions in daily living can be far reaching and hard to cope with.
One of the ways urology nurses are able to build trust with their patients is by understanding their discomfort and helping them feel less alone. Many people aren’t going to discuss urinary or sexual symptoms with their family and friends, but someone who has become incontinent from surgery or a medical condition is experiencing a huge change in daily living.
As nurses begin to help the patient with pressing emotional and physical symptoms, they are also able to take on the role of educator for the patient and the patient’s family. They need to know what to do, what treatment options are available, and how they can cope with this new change.
Because urology nursing professionals complete extensive and targeted training, they are able to use their knowledge to help patients in the most crucial ways. They can deliver accurate information about the patient’s condition, the prognosis, and the current treatment plan. Because they work with patients in this area, they can also steer patients toward resources, products, or life hacks that can help them manage this stage.
As a professional urology nurse, certification is going to help you provide the absolute best nursing care you can by giving you extra information and keeping you current on the latest evidence-based practices. Organizations such as the Certification Board for Urologic Nurses and Associates (CBUNA) provide this training and professional skills advancement. Nurses who are interested in this field may also choose to join a professional organization such as the Society of Urologic Nurses and Associates. Through this kind of organization, nurses find a community of like-minded professionals and a trusted resource for information and career guidance.
As Urology Nurses and Associates Week comes to a close, celebrate your professional career choice!
Prostate cancer is the second most common form of cancer in men (skin cancer is first), with the American Cancer Society estimating 161,360 new cases in 2017. A nurse’s role in prostate cancer awareness, prevention, diagnosis, and treatment is essential. As a professional nurse, a loved one, friend, or peer, nurses are on the front lines. They have the knowledge to help people identify what’s going on and have the resources and expertise to help them with treatment options and cutting-edge developments.
Leanne Schimke, MSN, FNP-C, CRNP, CUNP, works with urology patients in private practice and also with the Lancaster Rehab Hospital, and uses Prostate Cancer Awareness Month as a great opportunity to inform people about the disease. Of all things a patient might hear, getting any kind of life changing diagnosis like a cancer diagnosis is overwhelming. A nurse can help educate patients and also offer support. “Nurses need to understand it will take multiple discussions for the patient to retain the information,” says Schimke. “It is helpful to include family members and correct any misconceptions.”
Involving the patient and their loved ones in discussions helps ensure that the information will be understood and retained. Nurses can help patients by answering their questions, of which they probably have many, and making sure they know where to find additional reliable and accurate information. Surfing the internet for information about prostate cancer treatment and prognosis isn’t going to give them the information a nurse can. “I help provide context on information they obtain through the Internet, friends and family,” says Schimke, “such as helping them understand if a certain treatment is an option for them, especially at later stages of disease progression.”
And she also acts as a reference. She encourages patients and their loved ones to write down questions and to understand that while they can’t delay treatment decisions, they should not rush into them. They can take the time to choose the best option for them, and they have time to get a second opinion. “I help them have realistic expectations – some assume when they are diagnosed with prostate cancer they are going to die soon when that is not the case – and in others I need to help them understand that their time is limited. I am a contact for patients to answer their questions and help with their symptoms.”
Schimke also helps dispel the many myths about prostate cancer. Prostate cancer may not be the leading cause of cancer deaths in men, but it is a killer. “I would like to discuss the statement ‘no one dies from prostate cancer,’” she says. “Approximately 14 to 20 percent of men diagnosed with prostate cancer will progress and die from advanced prostate cancer and not another cause. This statement trivializes prostate cancer and may lead men to make decisions that are not in their best interest.”
As a nurse working closely with patients, Schimke is able to work with men and notice signs of the disease’s progression. “When left untreated in an advanced stage, prostate cancer can spread to other bones in the body, which is difficult to treat and can impact survival,” she says. But there are new options for patients. “There are many treatments for prostate cancer depending on the stage of the prostate cancer when diagnosed,” Schimke says. “Our goal is to hopefully cure the cancer if at an early stage, but if it is metastatic at diagnosis, we want to maintain their quality of life and prolong their life through the various treatment options that are available.” One new option is a short-range radioactive treatment that kills cancer cells in men whose cancer has been resistant to medical and surgical treatments. They may have metastasized cancer that has spread but the spread is limited to the bones. Called Xofigo, the option can help extend the life of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC) patients.
What can men who do not have prostate cancer do to protect their health? Schimke says getting a PSA test is important. While some men think the test isn’t useful, Schimke says the test is a screening tool, not a diagnostic tool, that can spot potential red flags in men who are at high risk of prostate cancer or those in the 55- to 70-year-old age range who feel they would like the test and understand it. “PSA testing should be done in men with a high risk for prostate cancer, such as men who have a father or brother that has had prostate cancer,” she says. “The American Urological Association has guidelines for which men should be tested.” And while the test results might lead to a biopsy to rule out cancer, the biopsy isn’t always going to come back positive.
And if men do get a cancer diagnosis, each case is very different and finding a reliable and knowledgeable healthcare team with expert urology and oncology teams working together is essential. “Not all prostate cancer needs to be treated,” says Schimke. “Many men can be followed and treated only if their prostate cancer progresses.”
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