Dialysis Related Healthcare Professions

Dialysis is the process of removing wastes and excess fluid from the blood when a person’s kidneys are not able to do it on their own. A dialysis machine is basically an artificial kidney, replacing the function of the kidneys and filtering the blood so a patient can live a reasonably normal life.

With kidney disease affecting 31 million Americans, and over 500,000 being treated in the U.S., a career as a Dialysis healthcare professional is one highly in demand. There are a number of positions available within dialysis clinics and hospitals around the country as well as various certification opportunities to increase your chance of being hired.

The positions within a dialysis setting are the following:

Patient Care Technician (PCT)

Also known as a Hemodialysis Technician, the Patient Care Technician assists patients with many tasks necessary during dialysis treatment for renal failure.

PCTs work under Registered Nurses performing many vital duties. Some of these are:

  • Receiving patients into the treatment area
  • Weighing the patient
  • Taking temperature and blood pressure
  • Documenting actions on dialysis flow sheets
  • Obtaining blood samples and preparing for shipment
  • Obtaining information from patient regarding dietary or medication regimen
  • Administering fluid therapy

After a required amount of time, the PCT must take an examination to become a Certified Clinical Hemodialysis Technician (CCHT). Their knowledge and skills are tested and validated, increasing their value to the workplace.

Another certificate open to Hemodialysis technicians is the Clinical Nephrology Technology (CCNT) certification. The examination for this certificate is available from the National Nephrology Certification Organization (NNCO).

Licensed Practical Nurse / Licensed Vocational Nurse (LPN / LVN)

Licensed Practical Nurses and Licensed Vocational Nurses perform patient care activities under the supervision of a Registered Nurse. Some of the functions they accomplish are:

  • Performing patient assessments (vital signs)
  • Reviewing dialysis orders
  • Interviewing patients for information regarding physical and mental condition
  • Recommending a dialysis plan for patient
  • Administering fluid therapy, medications and blood products
  • Administering proper drug dosages per doctor instructions

Registered Nurse (RN)

A registered nurse has advanced qualifications to provide special nursing care for patients undergoing treatment for kidney failure. They get a certificate from the Board of Nephrology Examiners Nursing and Technology (BONENT) as a Certified Hemodialysis Nurse (CHN). They can also achieve the certificate of a Certified Nephrology Nurse (CNN).

The duties of the registered nurse in a dialysis clinic would consist, in part, of the following:

  • Formulating a dialysis plan
  • Initiating dialysis treatment
  • Administering medications per physician orders
  • Reviewing dialysis orders
  • Determining general physical and mental condition of patient
  • Reviewing lab work
  • Reporting relevant changes to the doctor
  • Monitoring the equipment used
  • Maintaining dialysis records
  • Preparing and/or overseeing dialysis water treatment systems

Acute Dialysis Registered Nurse (RN)

This position is functionally the same as an RN, but this nurse cares for those with acute kidney problems, requiring intensive patient care. Often the duties are carried out in a hospital setting.

Certified Peritoneal Dialysis Nurse (CPDN)

The Peritoneal nurse has advanced qualifications permitting the nurse to make in-home visits to those on Peritoneal Dialysis. The essential responsibilities are the same as an RN in a clinical setting, although a thorough understanding is required of the mechanics of dialysis and monitoring it from start to finish.

The certificate for this position is obtained through the Board of Nephrology Examiners Nursing and Technology (BONENT).

Phlebotomy Technician (Phlebotomist)

The Phlebotomy Technician (phlebotomist) is specially trained to collect blood samples from patients using venipuncture or microtechniques. He is also responsible for the safe transportation of the blood specimens to the laboratory.

Biomedical Technician

The Biomedical Technician is responsible for maintaining and repairing dialysis machines. He or she is also responsible for the water treatment and ancillary medical equipment for the facilities in which he works. Certification can be obtained by taking the exam provided by the National Nephrology Certification Organization (NNCO). It is expected that he will have training or a background in electronics.

Registered Dietitian

This position is a necessity in the treatment of patients with renal failure. The position provides services and education to dialysis patients in clinical settings to support and maximize the patient’s nutritional well-being.

Social Worker

Requiring a Master’s Degree in Social Work, this position provides support to the patient and his or her family. This includes assistance with financial programs, medication assistance programs and vocational rehabilitation.

Administrative Assistant Clinical Services

This position within a dialysis facility exists to provide clerical and administrative support. The duties include filing, typing, answering phones and maintaining reports.

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