Key Eating Disorder Nurse Jobs in the Healthcare Industry

Eating disorder nurse jobs

Current data tells us that about 1 in 10 people in the United States will experience an eating disorder at some point in their life. That's 30 million people across all genders, ages, professional roles, and socioeconomic statuses. 

These dangerous conditions can have severe health consequences, and it’s no surprise that nurses are among the first healthcare professionals encountered when seeking help. Continuing education is key in the fight against eating disorders, and courses like Eating Disorders - Interprofessional Implications give healthcare professionals on the front lines the tools they need to make a difference throughout the industry. 

While this is invaluable training, eating disorders also require highly specialized professional care. They can result in profound acute and long-term health problems that require expert interdisciplinary teams to facilitate a successful recovery. At the core of these teams, you’ll often find a nurse coordinating and facilitating plans of care assuring that moving parts are working in synchrony for optimal patient outcomes. 

If you’re a nurse interested in working with this population, there are a variety of career paths and settings that may be a good fit for you. Here’s how to become an APRN who specializes in this field and the types of eating disorder nurse jobs you can pursue.

How To Become an Eating Disorder Nurse

Eating disorder nurses are nurses who have continued beyond the education needed for entry into practice as an RN to become an Advanced Practice RN (APRN). There are several advanced degree pathways to choose from that set a foundation for further specialization. 

First, advanced training as a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS), psychiatric-mental health nurse practitioner, or family nurse practitioner leverages eating disorder-specific knowledge and skills that create a solid foundation to specialize in eating disorders. Once the coursework is completed and all state educational requirements have been satisfied, state licensure and board certification as an APRN can be obtained. 

While each of these roles includes education and training in the basics of recognizing and managing eating disorders, becoming a true specialist requires additional enhanced on-the-job training and specialty certification. 

Certified Eating Disorder Registered Nurse

Certified Eating Disorders Specialists (CEDS, CEDRD, CEDRN) are health care professionals such as physicians and APRNs who have met the educational requirements, completed the minimum number of hours of qualifying work experience, passed a written exam, and have agreed to comply with the IAEDP Ethical Principles.

Recertification is required every 2 years. The applicant must obtain 20 CEs related to eating disorders and participate in the IAEDP symposium every other renewal cycle. The symposium can be attended virtually.

Where Do Eating Disorder Nurses Work?

Eating disorder nurse jobs can be found across a variety of settings and environments, each offering a unique perspective on the role. These options provide certified nurses great flexibility to select the type of care and stage of recovery they would like to participate in, as well as the communities and demographics they are most comfortable serving. They may also serve as liaisons for reinforcing best practices surrounding weight discrimination and bias for their colleagues.

Inpatient Care Settings

Nurses in inpatient care settings for eating disorders are most often engaged in the acute phase of treatment. The patients they come into contact with are often admitted to a hospital where multidisciplinary staff are regularly present to manage care and assess progress in healing.

In this role, the eating disorder nurse may be part of a specialized acute care, general medicine, or psychiatric care team. These facilities may focus on a specific eating disorder like bulimia, anorexia, or avoidant restrictive food intake disorder, or treat a wide range of conditions. Nurses working in inpatient environments may also focus on a narrow demographic based on age or sex, or manage a spectrum of patients. 

Finally, eating disorder nurse jobs in inpatient settings often involve managing patients who are experiencing life-threatening health crises. They may be facing severe physical or emotional trauma, surgery, substance abuse and withdrawal, mental health challenges, and require around-the-clock care and support. 

Nurses working in these settings should be prepared for a fast-paced and potentially high-stress career that demands rigorous and proactive practice. 

Partial Hospital Setting

Following the acute care phase of treatment, an eating disorder patient may be enrolled in a partial hospital program. In these types of settings, a patient is allowed to live at home while agreeing to come to the hospital for regular monitoring.

Nurses in these roles engage in regular monitoring of their patients, including daily vital signs, daily weights, and regular blood work to continuously monitor progress. Eating disorder nurses will also assess and manage the patient’s care in an outpatient format, and they often follow progress for an extended period to ensure healing momentum.

Eating disorder nurse jobs in outpatient settings are often lower stress and less reactive than in inpatient facilities. However, they require healthcare professionals to be extremely observant of fluctuations in data, mental health indicators, and lifestyle trends. Also, nurses often need to maintain communication networks with family, friends, school employees, and health professionals in a variety of different disciplines to support a positive trajectory. 

Residential Treatment Programs

A residential treatment program is designed for people who benefit from living at a treatment center but don’t need to be in a hospital-based acute care setting. Most often, these patients are medically stable but require regular intensive psychiatric treatment along with a comprehensive team of professionals managing their care.

Residential treatment programs are ideal for eating disorder APRNs trained in psychiatric mental health or family health. These roles tend to be very hands-on and require nurse specialists to work closely with a team of psychologists, therapists, and psychiatrists to prepare patients to take ownership of their own recovery. Because this can be difficult to quantify, these eating disorder nurse jobs often require nuanced observation, evaluation, and reporting. 

Day Treatment Centers 

Eating disorder day treatment centers provide tremendous flexibility for patients working towards recovery. With options to attend the program for any number of hours per day for as many days per week as recommended, day treatment programs allow patients to remain in their community while receiving the help they need.

Patients enrolled in day treatment programs are well beyond the acute phase of their recovery but still greatly benefit from the expertise of a multidisciplinary team. The combination of medical care when needed, therapy, nutritional education, and structured eating sessions is a great way for an APRN to help a patient round out their recovery. 

Nurses in day treatment facilities tend to operate on the positive end of the eating disorder spectrum, and they have the opportunity to share in the successes of the people they work with. However, because they are in a lower-contact environment, they need to be on the lookout for relapses and behaviors that are not conducive to recovery.

Find an Eating Disorder Nurse Job You Love!

Nurses are inherently trained to look at the big picture, and the complexities that accompany an eating disorder are well suited for this kind of care. Eating disorder nurse jobs can be found in a variety of settings, creating flexibility for the patient and the professional.

If becoming an eating disorder nurse is something you’re interested in, Premiere can help you get started on the right foot! Eating Disorders - Interprofessional Implications created by Megan Arbour PhD, RN, CNM, CNE, and Grant Hunsicker DDS covers common indicators, statistics, and implications of eating disorders, as well as the oral presentation of purging associated with them.

Eating disorder nurse jobs offer an excellent opportunity for specialization in advanced nursing care, and Premiere is here to support you in achieving your goals. All of our courses are created by leading industry professionals, and make staying current and informed about serious health issues fast, easy, and accessible from any screen. 

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