Becoming an HIV/AIDS nurse offers fulfilling work focusing on the care of individuals living with a disease that emerged around the world in the early 1980s. Many have died from this virus, but it has now become a chronic illness that expert healthcare professionals help patients to manage over the long term.
This guide from NurseJournal explores how to become an HIV/AIDS nurse, including information on education, certification, salary, work settings, and common responsibilities.
What Is an HIV/AIDS Nurse?
Becoming an HIV/AIDS nurse allows professionals to support patients struggling with a virus that medical science has gained much control over in the last forty years.
HIV/AIDS nurses improve patients’ medical care and quality of life. These highly skilled healthcare workers advocate for patients, along with managing complex medication and testing schedules.
Supportive counseling is important to the nurse-patient relationship in HIV nursing, including psychosocial complications and anxiety over the future. HIV/AIDS nurses work in HIV clinics, community health centers, research institutions, and long-term health facilities.
Steps to Becoming an HIV/AIDS Nurse
Becoming an HIV/AIDS nurse requires earning a professional nursing degree, gaining licensure, accruing experience in HIV/AIDS care, and possibly pursuing certification. Program and licensure requirements depend on state regulations.
1. Earn an ADN or BSN Degree
There are different types of bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) programs. A traditional BSN is a four-year college degree that results in the student receiving a strong foundation in nursing care, anatomy and physiology, informatics, and related subjects.
Nurses with associate degrees in nursing (ADNs) can enroll in RN-to-BSN programs, transfer many of their ADN class credits, and graduate with a BSN in 12-18 months. Individuals with bachelor’s degrees in non-nursing fields can complete accelerated BSN programs, adding nursing care, nursing theory, and other subjects to their previous knowledge base.
3. Pass the NCLEX Exam to Receive RN Licensure
Passing the NCLEX is a necessary step toward becoming an HIV/AIDS nurse. Every graduate of a nursing degree program who wishes to earn an RN license must pass the NCLEX exam. State boards of nursing use the exam to determine if candidates qualify for nursing licensure.
4. Gain Experience in HIV/AIDS Nursing
If a new nurse wants to gain experience in HIV/AIDS nursing, they can seek a position in any facility, agency, or institution where patients with HIV/AIDS receive care. Many facilities do not always require HIV/AIDS nursing certification to serve in such a nursing role.
5. Consider Becoming a Certified HIV/AIDS Nurse
Earning a specialty certification allows RNs to validate their knowledge, increase marketability, and demonstrate