What Does a Dialysis Technician Do?
Dialysis is the process of removing toxins, excess water and solutes from the blood in individuals with kidneys that cannot perform this function on their own. Complicated medical processes like this require a specialized professional to administer treatment. In this article, we look into the career of a dialysis technician, exploring their responsibilities, required skills and education, average salary and job outlook.
What does a dialysis technician do?
A dialysis technician is a medical professional who administers the dialysis procedure. Technicians work under the supervision of a nurse or physician who accompanies the patient during treatment.
Dialysis technician responsibilities
A dialysis technician works closely with patients and other medical professionals and is responsible for a wide variety of duties, some of which include:
Assembling the dialysis machine
Maintaining a sterile treatment environment
Ensuring dialysis machines work properly before treatment begins
Observing patients during treatment to monitor for signs of medical emergencies
Making alterations to treatment to maintain safe application
Working with nurses and doctors to administer the correct treatment for each individual
Explaining the dialysis process to patients and their families
Teaching patients about additional health care to enhance positive dialysis results
Prep patients and give local anesthesia
Create written reports on patient progress for doctors
Skills required for dialysis technicians
In addition to the skills needed to properly operate complicated medical technology, a dialysis technician requires a range of soft skills to successfully perform the job. The most common skills include:
Attention to detail
Medical roles require a keen eye to notice details and prevent potential errors that could be life-threatening. Dialysis treatment requires technicians to follow a specific set of instructions. They make adjustments based on their recognition of physical changes in the patient and directions from their supervisor.
During treatment, a dialysis technician monitors multiple details including the patient's well-being and functions of the dialysis machine. They also must be mindful of other responsibilities that require their attention, such as writing reports and speaking with staff and the patient's family members.
A dialysis technician is part of a larger group of medical staff. Each professional in this group must work together effectively and orderly to provide the best medical care possible to every dialysis patient.
Working with those who are ill requires meaningful empathy skills. Dialysis technicians are closely involved with patients in often difficult times and need to connect with them, provide reassurance and respond to their needs in a caring manner.
Dialysis technicians must have exceptional communication skills. Before treatment, they will walk patients through the process and need to clearly explain how it works. They also need to communicate with the patient during treatment when adjustments are made and be able to answer patient questions thoroughly.
Communication is also important between dialysis technicians and other medical staff to report on the progress and current physical condition of the patient, both verbally and in written reports.
Requirements for dialysis technicians
Dialysis technicians must fulfill several requirements to get a job, including:
High school diploma or GED
To work as a dialysis technician, you must have at least a high school diploma or a comparable education. Though not required, you may choose to pursue an advanced degree in medical technology or the nephrology field, which studies the kidneys, to gain a greater understanding of dialysis.
The recommended training for a dialysis technician is an accredited dialysis technology program. Certificate programs are offered by vocational and technical schools, online schools and community colleges. Many schools also offer background courses that teach aspiring dialysis technicians about blood chemistry, hemodialysis, renal disease and other coursework related to the role. A certification can usually be obtained within 12 to 18 months.
Occasionally, dialysis technician applicants may be hired without training and will either complete on-the-job training or get enrolled in a program through their employer with financial assistance.
Dialysis technician certification
All dialysis technicians must receive a certification within 18 months of hire. The government recognizes three credentialing agencies with a total of seven certification options. Each agency requires a high school diploma or equivalent education for certification. Nationally recognized certifications include:
The National Nephrology Certification Organization
The National Nephrology Certification Organization (NNCO) offers three certifications for dialysis technicians, one of which is a specialty certification:
Certification Examination in Clinical Nephrology Technology (CCNT): To qualify for the CCNT you must have completed a one-year certificate program, or a shorter program with work experience, and pass the exam. The exam consists of 200 multiple-choice questions regarding safety and infection control, proper patient care and dialysis principles and procedures. The exam has a three-hour time limit.
Certification Examination in Biomedical Nephrology Technology (CBNT): This certification is for dialysis technicians who repair and maintain the machines and equipment for water treatment. This exam also consists of 200 multiple choice questions and has a three-hour time limit, but discusses topics such as principles of dialysis, equipment functions and water treatment.
Certification Examination for Dialysis Water Specialists (CDWS): This specialty certification is for technicians who have experience in dialysis water treatment. It includes 175 multiple choice questions with a three-hour time limit and includes content on water treatment, water purification equipment and disinfection strategies and prevention.
All certification holders must recertify every four years and meet additional criteria required by the individual certifications.
The Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission
The Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission (NNCC) offers two certifications for hemodialysis technicians, which is another term for dialysis technician:
Certified Clinical Hemodialysis Technician (CCHT): To qualify for the CCHT, a candidate must complete an educational program and clinical practicum. The exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions and has a three-hour time limit. Questions test medical knowledge and the ability to apply that knowledge in a real-world setting.
Certified Clinical Hemodialysis Technician Advanced (CCHT-A): The CCHT-A is reserved for working technicians with at least five years of experience and tests more advanced knowledge.
The CCHT must be renewed every three years and candidates must have proof of at least 3,000 hours of work as a dialysis technician and 30 hours of continuing education.
The Board of Nephrology Examiners Nursing and Technology
The Board of Nephrology Examiners Nursing and Technology (BONENT) offers two certifications:
Certified Hemodialysis Technician/Technologist (CHT): To qualify for the CHT, a candidate must graduate from a BONENT-approved certificate program or have one year of work experience as a technician. The exam consists of 150 multiple-choice questions with a three-hour time limit and covers patient care, water treatment and machine technology, and education and professional development.
Certified Hemodialysis Biomedical Technician (CHBT): The CHBT is specifically for dialysis technicians who repair and maintain dialysis equipment. This exam also consists of 150 multiple-choice questions with a three-hour time limit and focuses on eight domains of practice and tasks involved in hemodialysis technology, such as medical machine maintenance and water treatment system management.
Renewal for BONENT certifications requires 40 hours of continuing education or professional activity or retaking the exam. A one-time continuing education waiver is available.
Keep in mind that states have individual requirements regarding certification, so make sure to research the regulations of the state you intend to work in. Also, check the detailed eligibility requirements of each examination.
Average salary for dialysis technicians
Dialysis technicians make an average of $25.18 per hour. (For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, click on the salary link.) Salaries can increase depending on the type of health care facility they work in, specifically dialysis centers, and attainment of higher education and extensive experience.
Job outlook for dialysis technicians
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in health care occupations is expected to grow 15% between 2019 and 2029, which is significantly faster than average for all occupations.