What Is a Dialysis Nurse?
A dialysis nurse is a nurse who specializes in working with patients suffering from kidney failure whose disease is serious enough to warrant dialysis, a medical treatment that filters excess fluids, minerals, creatinine, urea, and other wastes from the body when the kidneys can no longer perform that function. Dialysis nurses are also called kidney nurses, nephrology nurses or urology nurses.
There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis in which a machine called a hemodialyzer removes the waste from the patient’s blood and peritoneal dialysis in which the blood is cleaned within the body. Hemodialysis is by far the more common of the two treatment options.
Hemodialysis is a highly specialized process. Not only must dialysis nurses understand the pathophysiology of kidney disease and anticipate the possible complications of dialysis, they must also understand how the dialysis machine itself works.
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The dialysis nurse does all blood draws that are necessary during the procedure, using a double lumen catheter for access. Additionally, the dialysis nurse is responsible for changing catheter dressings and assuring that all catheters are patent. The dialysis nurse is also the primary patient educator, explaining procedures as they take place and answering questions the patient may have felt too intimidated to ask the physician. Finally, the dialysis nurse is responsible for documenting the procedure.
Dialysis Nursing: Education and Certification
Dialysis nurses can be either registered nurses (RNs) or licensed practical nurses (LPNs), although in the majority of cases they are RNs because they are expected to supervise the dialysis technicians who are charged with operating the actual dialysis machine itself.
Many dialysis centers do not require prior experience, and will hire new graduates straight out of nursing school so they can train them in their own techniques. Home health care registries, on the other hand, prefer nurses with a solid year of medical-surgical ward or Intensive Care Unit Experience.
You need 2,000 hours of patient experience before you can sit for the Certified Dialysis Nurse examination, and two years of experience before you can sit for the Certified Nephrology Nurse examination. Both certifications are accredited by the Accreditation Board for Specialty Nursing Certification.
A Day In the Life of a Dialysis Nurse
Dialysis takes place either at a dialysis center or a patient’s own home. Dialysis nurses who work at dialysis centers will be assigned patients much as they might be on a hospital ward, and will be responsible for those patients throughout their shifts. The average patient load is six.
Home healthcare dialysis nurse, on the other hand, travel to their patients’ bedsides. The average length of a hemodialysis treatment is four hours so it is unusual for a home healthcare dialysis nurse to see more than three patients in a single day.
How Much Does a Dialysis Nurse Earn?
Dialysis nurses are well compensated. The average salary for a dialysis nurse is just under $70,000.
Job Outlook For Dialysis Nurses
Dialysis nursing is one of the quickest growing nursing specialties. Nevertheless, there is a nursing shortage in this field. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics does not break out dialysis nursing from other kinds of nursing, one can anticipate that a crush of aging Baby Boomers will increase the need for nurses who are experienced at working with patients in kidney failure.