How to Become a Dialysis Nurse


    GUIDE
    August 3, 2020
    Nurse in blue scrubs and cap checking on  dialysis machine in hospital room

    By: Kathleen Gaines MSN, BA, RN, CBC

    According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 15% (37 million people) are estimated to have Chronic Kidney Disease. Dialysis nurses provide care to those patients, as well as to patients that are experiencing any other kind of kidney-related issues.

    In this guide, we’ll explain what a dialysis nurse does, how to become one, how much they make, and more!

    Part One What is a Dialysis Nurse?

    Dialysis nurses are part of the larger specialty known as nephrology nursing. A dialysis nurse provides care to patients in acute and chronic kidney failure. Dialysis or hemodialysis will be required for these patients in order to eliminate waste from their bodies. 

    Dialysis nurses are responsible for monitoring patients throughout their dialysis treatment and reporting any changes to the medical team. Despite primarily working with dialysis patients, they specialize in patients with all kidney-related medical problems. 

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    Part Two What Does a Dialysis Nurse Do?

    Dialysis nurses are specially trained nurses who support patients that require dialysis. Dialysis is for those patients that suffer from kidney failure and depend on it to do the work of filtering and excreting waste when their kidneys no longer can. 

    Their duties include:

    • Educating patients, families, and caregivers about their disease and treatment plan
    • Overseeing the dialysis treatment from start to finish including priming the dialyzer and bloodlines
    • Recording patients’ medical information and vital signs
    • Managing multiple dialysis patients throughout treatment
    • Identifying irregular dialysis reactions and notifying appropriate medical team members
    • Providing pre- and post-procedure care to patients within the Hemodialysis Unit
    • Preparing and updating nursing care plans
    • Helping patients follow-up with their transplant centers
    • Developing a training plan for each patient
    • Evaluating the patients’ ability to perform their dialysis treatment
    • Letting the medical team know about any changes to the patients’ conditions
    • Collecting bloodwork and other laboratory tests as ordered
    • Following up with patients after dialysis
    • Scheduling dialysis treatments
    • Working with the Dialysis Technicians to ensure that dialysis machines and equipment are set up correctly
    • Evaluating patients’ reaction to dialysis treatment and medications
    • Administering medications during treatment

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    Part Three Dialysis Nurse Salary

    According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median salary for a registered nurse in 2019 is $73,300 per year or $35.24 per hour, but conditions in your area may vary.

    The BLS does not differentiate between different specialties of nursing, but Glassdoor.com states an annual average salary of $65,870. Payscale.com reports an annual average salary of $70,310 or $32.97/hr

    Specifically, Dialysis Nurses can earn a higher annual salary with increased years of experience.

    • 1-4 years of experience earn an average hourly wage of $30.03
    • 5-9 years of experience earns an average hourly wage of $31.15
    • 10-19 years of experience earns an average hourly wage of $33.40
    • 20 years and higher of experience earns an average hourly wage of $35.17

    Currently, the highest paying states for Dialysis Nurses according to Payscale.com are as follows:

    • New York, New York - $76,835
    • Chicago Illinois - $70,000
    • San Antonio, Texas - $70,000
    • Houston, Texas - $68,000
    • Dallas, Texas - $61,526
    • Los Angeles, California - $60,984

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    Part Four How Do You Become a Dialysis Nurse?

    To become a Dialysis Nurse, you’ll need to complete the following steps:

    1. Attend Nursing School

      You’ll need to earn either an ADN or a BSN from an accredited nursing program in order to take the first steps to become a registered nurse. ADN-prepared nurses may want to take the additional step of completing their BSN degree.

    2. Pass the NCLEX-RN

      Become a Registered Nurse by passing the NCLEX examination.

    3. Gain Experience at the Bedside

      Prior to becoming a dialysis nurse, you'll likely need to have a minimum of two years of medical surgical experience, preferably nephrology nursing. New graduates are rarely hired directly into a dialysis nursing position.

    4. Earn Your Certification

      The Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission offers two certifications for Dialysis/Nephrology Nurses.

      Certified Dialysis Nurse (CDN)

      Certified Nephrology Nurse (CNN)

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    Part Five Where Do Dialysis Nurses Work?

    Dialysis nurses are more limited in places that they work because generally, dialysis treatments and procedures occur in hospitals, outpatient clinics, or in a patient’s home. 

    Typically, dialysis nurses can work in the following locations:

    1. Hospitals
    2. Outpatient clinics
    3. Transplant center
    4. Academia
    5. Home healthcare agency
    6. Nursing home
    7. Hospice center
    8. Hemodialysis center

    Part Six What is the Career Outlook for a Dialysis Nurse?

    Dialysis nursing is one of the most in-demand specialty fields of nursing because of the high number of kidney failure patients in the United States.

    • Approximately 37 million Americans have chronic kidney disease
    • More than 726,000 have end-stage renal disease. More than 100,000 people start dialysis annually per Health and Human Services. 

    Interestingly, dialysis nurse retention is an ongoing problem, especially at outpatient dialysis specialty centers. One of the main reasons is because they are typically underpaid as compared to other nursing specialties. Treating chronically ill patients can also be difficult for many nurses. 

    According to the BLS, in 2018, there were 3,059,800 Registered Nurses in the United States. By 2028, there will be a need for additional 371,500 nurses, which is an expected growth of 12%. With the aging population, this number is expected to be even higher.

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    Part Seven What are the Continuing Education Requirements for a Dialysis Nurse?

    Generally, in order for an individual to renew their RN license, they will need to fill out an application, complete a specific number of CEU hours, and pay a nominal fee.

    Each state has specific requirements and it is important to check with the board of nursing prior to applying for license renewal.

    If the RN license is part of a compact nursing license, the CEU requirement will be for the state of permanent residence. Furthermore, some states require CEUs related to child abuse, narcotics, and/or pain management. 

    Obtaining a CNN or CDN certification will require specific continuing education hours. These hours can also be used for state-specific RN CEUs. 

    A detailed look at Continuing Nurse Education hours can be found here.

    Part Eight Where Can I Learn More about Becoming a Dialysis Nurse?

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    Part Nine Dialysis Nurse FAQs

    • How much does a Dialysis Nurse make?

      • According to Payscale.com, Dialysis nurses earn an annual average salary of $70,310 or $32.97/hr.
    • Is it hard being a Dialysis Nurse?

      • Working as a dialysis nurse can be difficult because treating chronically ill patients can lead to increased burnout. Typically, this specialty of nursing is not any more difficult than other nursing specialties.
    • What is it like to be a Dialysis Nurse?

      • Dialysis nurses take care of patients that are receiving dialysis to treat end-stage kidney disease. They oversee dialysis from start to finish, including monitoring the patient, administering medication, and educating patients and their families. 

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