Just last week, you told your BFF that you wanted to be a dialysis nurse. Even though she looked at you as though you'd suddenly begun speaking in ancient Sanskrit, you’ve done your research and know where you’re going. You’ve got your degree in nursing, so all you need is some training in nephrology and dialysis. Luckily, lots of training options are available.
Dialysis is a subspecialty of nephrology nursing, which is the care of patients with renal system disorders. When a patient’s kidneys shut down, either temporarily or permanently, the dialysis nurse helps manage the condition until the patient gets well, has a kidney transplant or dies from kidney failure. Most nurses who work in the dialysis arena have critical care experience, because patients with renal failure are often very sick and need complex care. Hemodialysis, the most common form, involves running a patient’s blood through a specialized machine that extracts all the waste products usually removed by the kidneys. A dialysis nurse must know how to manage the machines as well as provide other kinds of nursing care during dialysis.
Many dialysis centers offer a certain amount of on-the-job training, but other options are also available. In order to become certified in nephrology, for example, an RN must have 15 hours of continuing education specific to nephrology from an organization accredited by the American Nurses Credentialing Center -- Commission on Accreditation, the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, the Council of Continuing Education or the California, Florida, Iowa, Kansas or Ohio State Boards of Nursing.
Symposiums and Other Resources
One source of dialysis and nephrology education is the American Nephrology Nurses' Association. The ANNA has an annual national symposium as well as a fall meeting that includes educational sessions for nurses who practice at all levels of nephrology nursing. The ANNA also provides educational programs through local chapters and sponsors workshops, audio conferences and distance learning courses. Its website includes information on topics such as the scope of practice for a nephrology nurse, standards of nursing practice, basic qualifications and the knowledge base you need to practice nephrology and dialysis nursing.
Educational institutes, colleges and universities may offer dialysis training to prepare a nurse to work in the outpatient dialysis setting or in inpatient areas such as the critical care unit. These courses typically include topics such as how to prepare the dialyzer, how to initiate and terminate treatments, how to assess and monitor patients during dialysis and how to identify and treat medical complications and psychosocial problems. Some courses offer a certificate on completion of the program. In addition to classroom instruction, these courses typically include a clinical hands-on component.
- American Association of Nephrology Nurses: The Nephrology Nursing Specialty - Background Information
- American Association of Nephrology Nurses: Scope of Practice for Nephrology Nursing
- Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission: CDN -- Certified Dialysis Nurse
- Dialysis Training Institute: Basic Hemodialysis Training Program
- New York University Lagone Medical Center: Hemodialysis
- American Renal Associates: Careers in Kentucky
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.