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Renal medicine specialist

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Summary of occupation

Renal medicine specialists manage conditions associated with renal (kidney) impairment and failure. Their main goal is to optimise renal function. They manage patients on dialysis and those who have had kidney transplants.

This medical specialty covers a wide range of diseases from acute emergencies to chronic renal failure, acid-base and electrolyte disorders, kidney stones and transplantation.

There are approximately 18 renal medicine specialists practising in Western Australia all of who are based in the metropolitan area.

ANZSCO description: Investigates, diagnoses and treats disorders of  the human kidney. Registration or licensing is required.
Alternative names: Internal Medical Specialist, Medical Practitioner, Nephrologist, Physician, Renal Medicine Physician, Specialist
Specialisations: Paediatric nephrology
Job prospects: Average
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

Renal medicine specialists need:

  • an extensive knowledge of emergency, intensive care medicine and other systemic diseases (diabetes) that can lead to kidney failure and biochemistry
  • excellent communication skills
  • to be confident with screening methods
  • to collaborate with other specialists, including transplant surgeons, nurses and other health professionals
  • to be able to relate to patients of all ages and in many cases develop long-term relationships with these individuals and their families
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Working conditions

With approximately 1 in 3 Australians at risk of developing chronic kidney disease, renal medicine specialists are frequently in demand.

Renal medicine specialists can work in private and public practice however most work in public hospitals in capital cities. It is a demanding speciality, with high work pressures and regular on-call requirements.

The highs associated with the speciality include successfully managing acute renal failure or kidney transplantation. The lows can include looking after patients with chronic renal failure or those on dialysis.

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Salary details

On average, renal medicine specialists can expect to earn between $2 692 and $3 461 per week ($140 000 and $180 000 per year) depending on the organisation they work for and their level of experience. As a renal medicine specialist develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Renal medicine specialists need to be familiar with techniques associated with microscopy, biopsy, imaging, dialysis and transplantation.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a renal medicine specialist, you must first become a qualified medical practitioner and then specialise in renal medicine.

In Western Australia, postgraduate courses in medicine are offered by the University of Notre Dame and the University of Western Australia. These degrees usually take four years to complete. Entry requirements include completion of a bachelor degree in any discipline. You must also sit the Graduate Australian Medical Schools Admissions Test and attend an interview at your chosen institution. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

On completion of the postgraduate medical degree, you must work in the public hospital system for two years (internship and residency). To specialise in renal medicine, doctors can apply to Royal Australasian College of Physicians to undertake further training and ultimately receive fellowship.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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