Dialysis technicians perform hemodialysis treatment with or under the supervision of registered nurses. Dialysis is a part of nephrology care, or medical care dealing with kidney disease. In addition to directly caring for patients, the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) notes that dialysis technican jobs can also include water treatment monitoring, equipment maintenance and dialyzer reprocessing. Though registered nurses provide supervision, dialysis technicians may be responsible for all aspects of dialysis treatment, which can include preparing dialysate, checking vital signs, administering anticoagulant, measuring and adjusting blood flow rates, handling emergencies that may arise and referring the medical and emotional concerns of patients to registered nurses as appropriate, reports NKF. Dialysis technicians may also take part in patient education. The specific responsibilities of dialysis technician careers can vary depending on the laws of a particular state and the employer.
These health technologists work in hospitals, homes and outpatient facilities. Machine technology is a significant aspect of the job, as dialysis techs should have a good understanding of necessary maintenance and repair.
How to Become a Dialysis Technician
Those interested in becoming a dialysis technician can earn a postsecondary certificate through community colleges or vocational programs. Depending on the program, students may come out better prepared for professional certification. The following steps may be helpful for entering the field of dialysis technology, though they cannot guarantee employment:
- Earn a high school diploma or an equivalent qualification, and taking classes in science.
- Complete a dialysis technician certificate program, gaining clinical experience and classroom knowledge.
- Earn state or nationally recognized certification as a hemodialysis technician. Certification programs should adhere to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) criteria.
- Apply to to entry-level jobs in dialysis.
- Maintain certification through continuing education and/or payment of annual certification fees.
Post-Education Requirements: Certifications and/or State Licensing
According to the NKF, regulations set by the CMS dictate that dialysis technicians working directly with patients must become certified through an approved state or national agency within 18 months of being hired. Graduates of dialysis technician training programs may be eligible to earn national certification through the following organizations:
- The Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission (NNCC): NNCC offers two dialysis technician certifications through exams: Certified Clinical Hemodialysis Technician (CCHT) and Certified Clinical Hemodialysis Technician - Advanced (CCHT-A). Completion of a training program and clinical experience are the general minimum requirements for certification.
- National Nephrology Certification Organization (NNCO): NNCO administers a Certification Examination in Clinical Nephrology Technology and a Certification Examination in Biomedical Nephrology Technology. Clinical experience is required to take the exam.
- Board of Nephrology Examiners Nursing and Technology (BONENT): BONENT offers an exam for certification as a Certified Hemodialysis Technologist/Technician (CHT). Experience in an end stage renal disease (ESRD) facility or nephrology care is required. Completion of a BONENT-approved dialysis program may take the place of clinical experience.
States may have their own certification/licensure requirements that go above and beyond CMS rules. For example, they may have a unique list of approved dialysis technician training programs or only accept certain national certification exams. Check with the department of health in the state you wish to work in for more information.
Dialysis Technician Job Growth and Average Salary
Health technicians are a key part of direct patient care, and as the healthcare field grows in part to longer life expectancies, these professionals could see greater demand. While the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not provide growth and salary information specifically for dialysis technicians, it does offer data on health technologists/technicians as a group. The BLS projects that jobs for health technologists and technicians will grow by 26 percent nationally between 2010 and 2020, much faster than the average occupational growth rate. In May 2012, the mean annual wage for these professionals was $43,980. Salary can vary based on employer, location, experience and other factors.
List of Related Careers
Dialysis tech careers may open up avenues to related careers in nephrology, direct patient care or medical technology. Through further training or education, dialysis technologists may be able to pursue careers such as the following:
- Nephrology Nurse: Provide nursing care for patients who may have a combination of conditions requiring complex clinical care.
- Dialysis Nurse: Work with patients by carrying out regular dialysis treatment. In-depth knowledge of multiple patient conditions in order to modify or change treatments.
- Medical Laboratory Technician/Technologist: Collect and test samples for the analysis of substances, tissues and body fluids.
Links to Sources and Associations
The following websites offer more information about nephrology and dialysis technology:
Board of Nephrology Examiners Nursing and Technology, http://www.bonent.org
Employment by occupation, Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_table_102.htm
National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, United States (May 2012), Occupational Employment Statistics, Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2013, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm
Renal Career Fact Sheet - Dialysis Technician, National Kidney Foundation, Dec. 2010, http://www.kidney.org/professionals/cnnt/techcnnt.cfm
Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission, CCHT Recertification
Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission, http://www.nncc-exam.org/
National Nephrology Certification Organization, http://nnco.nbccc.net/
Projections Overview, Occupational Outlook Handbook (2012-13 Edition), Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2012, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/About/Projections-Overview.htm
"Scope of Practice for Nephrology Nursing," American Nephrology Nurses Association, 2011, http://www.annanurse.org/professional-development/practice/scope-of-practice/nephrology-nursing