The way we see it, you can’t go wrong with a nursing career. As a profession, it’s rewarding, in high demand, in service of others, and often well paid.
Another career perk is the opportunity for specialization. More specifically, if a particular area of medicine interests you, you can earn additional certifications to work with whom you want, where you want. Being able to do work that excites you is part of what makes nursing so rewarding.
In this article, we’ll specifically talk about dialysis nursing, in which nurses work directly with kidney patients to improve their quality of life. So if you’re interested in focused work with life-changing outcomes (and who wouldn’t be, right?), read on for more on how to get into this career.
What is a dialysis nurse?
Dialysis nurses treat patients with kidney failure. Because of the improper functioning of this organ, patients’ bodies can no longer correctly filter blood, and they require dialysis.
There are two primary types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. If you’re thinking about becoming a dialysis nurse, it’s important first to understand their key differences.
- In hemodialysis: an external machine filters a patient’s blood before returning it to their body. This process is performed by extracting the blood from the dialysis patient’s body through one tube and returning the cleaned blood through another.
- In perinatal dialysis: a patient wears a catheter attached to their abdomen. Dialysis fluid moves into a patient’s stomach to filter their blood.
Dialysis nurses either work to assist patients receiving hemodialysis or train patients to do home dialysis. These nurses perform vital work to help patients with chronic kidney disease and other kidney conditions live life fully.
What does a dialysis nurse do?
Whenever considering a new line of work, it makes sense to get an idea of what a typical workday would entail. Daily tasks in a standard dialysis nurse job description may include:
- Assisting patients through the hemodialysis process
- Preparing dialysis tubes
- Educating patients and their families on the dialysis process
- Taking vital signs
- Keeping medical records
- Looking out for signs of abnormal dialysis treatment reactions
- Providing pre-procedure and post-procedure care
- Keeping up with patient care and training plans
- Assessing whether a patient can perform their own treatment
- Taking laboratory samples
- Communicating with a team of other medical professionals on a patient’s condition
- Assessing reactions to treatments and medications
- Administering medications
How to become a dialysis nurse
If you feel called to a specific nursing career, our advice is to follow your dream. While it may take years of study and hard work, it all pays off. You’ll end up in a rewarding career, and your patients will be better off thanks to your care.
If you feel called to help care for those with kidney conditions, here’s how you can become a dialysis nurse:
- Hit the books! Get an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) at an accredited nursing school. You could even get a graduate degree like a master’s or doctorate. A BSN is usually sufficient for most nursing careers, though we won’t discourage you from pursuing more advanced studies. A pro tip? If you plan to get an ADN, make sure you’d be eligible for certifications you’d like in the future, as this degree can limit you from practicing certain specializations.
- Perform clinical hours to support your schooling. You’ll fulfill these hours in a healthcare environment, getting on-the-job experience to help you feel confident when you enter your field. You’ll learn everything from taking vital signs to putting in IVs during your clinical hours.
- Sit for the NCLEX-RN exam. Once you ace it (and we know you will!), you’ll be able to apply for your registered nurse certification. We recommend wearing your favorite scrubs (and even your “lucky scrubs” if you have them) when you take this exam.
- Get to work. Start a career in nephrology to gain experience with acute care and IV administration. These skills will impress future employers.
- Earn your nephrology certification and bulk up your knowledge with continuing education courses on renal medicine. You’ll become a better candidate for jobs if you get in more coursework (because knowledge is power!). As far as certification goes, the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission offers the following:
- Certified dialysis nurse (CDN)
- Certified nephrology nurse (CNN)
- Certified nephrology nurse for nurse practitioner (CNN-NP)
As you get closer to getting your dialysis nurse certification, we recommend researching the prerequisites for each and which is the best fit for the type of job you’d like.
So, exactly how long does it take to become a dialysis nurse? All in all, usually 3-6 years.
Where do dialysis nurses work?
You can find dialysis nurses in dialysis clinics, hospitals (especially the ICU and acute care environments), outpatient clinics, and patients’ homes. So, if you’re going into this field, you’ll have many workplace options. Plus, if you need a change of scenery someday, you should be able to get one.
What is the career outlook for a dialysis nurse?
We know you’re going into nursing because you love helping others live life to the fullest, first and foremost. But attractive financial compensation and stable job security come as added perks.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the projected job growth for dialysis nurses is 26% over the next decade. Now that’s what we call a bright career outlook.
As for money, the average annual dialysis nurse salary in the US is roughly $65,000, with plenty of opportunities for advancement. Higher-end wages for more experienced nurses could come close to $90,000. That said, a career in dialysis nursing is a win-win situation. You get to do what you love and earn well while doing it.
As you take on your career as a medical professional, you can count on us to keep you comfortable and feeling great in luxury scrubs.
Whatever your dream is and wherever your professional career takes you, always remember: We believe in you!