Dialysis Technician Career Guide
Kidney dialysis can mean the difference between a patient living and dying for those who are suffering from kidney failure. You may be wondering what is a dialysis tech? Dialysis technicians are responsible for administering this critical procedure on a daily basis as part of their work routine. These techs, who are also known as nephrology or hemodialysis technicians, are the ones who operate and make sure that the equipment used for dialysis is maintained properly. So what is dialysis? Well, dialysis is the process by which the blood is cleansed of various metabolic wastes.
In most cases, patients will undergo dialysis at a clinic or hospital. A physician will also be present while the medical equipment is being operated by the technician. Dialysis techs will also assist in prepping patients, administering local anesthesia, monitoring the progress of patients and providing reports to the physician. Patients with kidney failure depend on dialysis, making the role of dialysis technicians a crucial one in helping them to reclaim their lives.
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Generally, dialysis techs work in a hospital setting or in clinics. They can also be found working in a patient’s private home as well. Work weeks are usually 40 hours, with some technicians opting to work on a part time basis for more flexible hours. Techs are required to work while being supervised by a RN (registered nurse) or a physician. Some techs will also be required to work evening and weekend shifts. Technicians are often standing for long periods of time, so they need to be in decent shape and keep cool under pressure in the case of an emergency. They will also need to have some inter-personal skills as they will be required to communicate with patients and other healthcare professionals.
Dialysis Tech Job Description
So what does a dialysis tech do? Renal dialysis techs perform dialysis treatment to assist patients with kidney failure or renal disease. Essentially, they purify a patient’s blood with dialysis equipment, replacing the functions normally performed by the kidney. Some of their daily duties and tasks are listed below:
- Maintaining and testing dialysis equipment
- Medical equipment assembly
- Administer local anesthesia
- Take blood pressure and weight of patients
- Sterilize blood
- Calculate blood flow and fluid removal rates
- Monitor patients
- Administer medication
- Keep patient records
- Communicate with nurses and doctors
Dialysis Technician School
For those interested in how to become a dialysis tech, candidates need to have a GED or high school diploma in addition to completing the necessary dialysis techn training and coursework. Dialysis technician schools or training can be found at community colleges, vocational and technical schools, and online programs that cover dialysis and equipment training. Core curriculum for the dialysis tech includes courses in body chemistry, renal disease and dialysis procedures, generally taking about 12-18 months to complete.
Dialysis Technician Training
Dialysis tech training consists of working under the supervision of a licensed physician or nurse in a clinical setting. Students will gain hands on experience in working with the dialysis machinery and learning how to follow proper procedures. This is generally provided through internships and also through job training programs.
Licensure and Certification
Regulations for certification will vary from state to state for dialysis technicians, so it is necessary to check with the state you plan to work in. There are four main types of credentials that can be earned and they are as follows:
CCHT – Certification for Clinical Hemodialysis Technicians (CCHT) if offered by the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission. Students must pass an examination after 6 months of experience with the proper technology.
CCHT needs to be renewed every three years. In order to renew their certification, technicians must have worked a minimum of 3000 hours as a technician along with 30 hours of professional activity and continuing education.
CHT – Hemodialysis Technician Certification (CHT) can be obtained through the Board of Nephrology Examiners Nursing and Technology (BONENT). The requirements for certification include passing of an examination along with a year of experience with the technology.
CHT needs to be renewed every four years. Techs have several options when it comes to renewing. They can either complete 40 hours of the necessary continuing education or apply for a waiver if the necessary hours have not been completed. Techs can also retake and pass the BONENT examination.
CBNT and CCNT – Biomedical Nephrology Technology (CBNT) and Clinical Nephrology Technology (CCNT) can be obtained through the National Nephrology Certification Organization (NNCO). The requirements for certification include passing of an examination along with a year’s worth of experience with the necessary technology.
Recertification will be needed every four years. Techs will need to complete 30 hours of continuing education in order to qualify.
Skills and Qualifications
Since technicians will be working with sick patients, they need to have a high level of empathy and compassion. Techs must also have a good level of dexterity as they will be operating equipment. There will also be a lot of time spend standing in addition to having to move patients, so some physical fitness is required. Good communication skills and attention to detail are also good qualities to have.
For technicians working in a large clinic or hospital, there is room for advancement. With a lot of work experience and added training and education, dialysis techs can advance to the position of head technician. Techs can also continue with their education in order to pursue a career in a more specialized field such as nursing.
Unfortunately, there is not much opportunity for advancement for technicians working in smaller clinics or private homes.
Dialysis Technician Salary
How much does a dialysis techn make? The median dialysis tech salary was $37,240 in 2012, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bottom 10% of techs earned $24,790 a year, while the top 10% of techs earned $57,710.
Income can vary a great deal depending on what state a tech works in. Some states pay more than other, with Tennessee being the lowest paying state. The highest paying states include Arizona, Colorado, Illinois and Pennsylvania.
Work experience will also affect a dialysis technician’s salary. Techs with less than 5 years of experience will be paid lower than those with at least 5 years of experience. New tech can expect a wage of about $8.80 – $16.60 an hour, while those with 5 years of experience can expect a wage of about $17.00 an hour. If you have more than 10 years of experience, your pay can be as high as $20 per hour.
Dialysis Technician Jobs
The job outlook for medical laboratory technicians, including dialysis techs, is looking to be very good in the near future. The estimated growth for this profession is expected to be 30% from 2012 to 2022. This is much higher than the average for all other jobs. The rapid growth can be partly attributed to the aging of the baby boomers in the US. As this population gets older, they will need more lab work done, including procedures like dialysis. The new healthcare legislation also looks to play a big role as more people will have access to healthcare than ever before. As a result, the demand for trained technicians will be on the rise.