How To Become a Dialysis Nurse

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published March 8, 2021

The field of nursing can give you the opportunity to work with a diverse set of patients and other healthcare providers. If you have a desire to apply your compassion and skills to improving the lives of patients, then becoming a nurse may be an ideal position for you. As the senior population grows, dialysis nurses are even more in demand, as this is the group that is most in need of nephrology services.

In this article, we describe what a dialysis nurse is and what they do, provide the average salary and job outlook for the position and share a list of steps you can follow to become a dialysis nurse.

What is a dialysis nurse?

A dialysis nurse is a registered nurse who specializes in caring for patients with kidney diseases and other issues, and those patients who doctors have determined are at risk for developing kidney disease. A dialysis nurse may work in several settings, including hospitals, nursing homes, patients' homes, transplant centers, outpatient treatment facilities and hospice care.

What does a dialysis nurse do?

A dialysis nurse has several responsibilities, including:

  • Providing treatment to patients suffering from kidney disease or other kidney issues

  • Performing dialysis to remove waste, impurities and excess fluid from the body

  • Monitoring patients in their care to make sure they're responding to treatment

  • Educating patients about their disease progression and the specific procedures they're enduring

  • Following orders from nephrologists and other healthcare professionals

  • Communicating a patient's status and any updates to other nurses during shift change

  • Supporting doctors during surgical procedures

  • Helping patients manage their symptoms

  • Assessing the kidney function of their patients

Related: Complete Guide to the Nursing Qualifications

Average salary for a dialysis nurse

The national average salary for a dialysis nurse is $70,568 per year in the United States, although your salary could vary depending on education, experience, skill set, whether you're a contract or travel nurse and your geographical location. For example, dialysis nurses in New York, New York make an average of $141,287 per year, while individuals in the same position in Dallas, Texas report making an average of $67,150 per year.

Common benefits that dialysis nurses make receive from their employer include:

  • Health insurance

  • Dental insurance

  • 401(k) with employer matching

  • Paid housing

  • Reimbursement for licensing fees

  • Vision insurance

  • Employee discounts

  • Relocation assistance

  • Disability insurance

  • Life insurance

Many dialysis nurses report overtime pay, which can significantly increase how much you earn per year for this role.

Job outlook for a dialysis nurse

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for registered nurses, including dialysis nurses, is expected to grow by 7% through 2029, which is faster than the average growth projection for other occupations. This is because the need for healthcare services continues to increase, as does the aging population of patients. Healthcare employers continue to hire registered nurses to fill patient needs, and although you may have competition for a position as a dialysis nurse, there are usually plenty of open job opportunities across the United States for qualified candidates.

How to become a dialysis nurse

Follow these steps to become a dialysis nurse:

1. Earn a college degree

One of the first steps in becoming a dialysis nurse is to earn a college degree from an accredited college or university. You can choose between an associate, bachelor's, master's or Ph.D., depending on how much you want to advance in your career. Some employers may require a certain level of degree, but you can earn your registered nurse license as long as you have earned at least an associate degree in the field.

Some courses you may take include anatomy and physiology, microbiology, ethics in nursing, emergency care, clinical theory and population health.

Related: What Is an ADN? How to Decide if an Associate Degree in Nursing Is Right for You

2. Complete clinical rotations

No matter which degree path you choose, you'll need to complete clinical rotations as part of your coursework, and how many hours you must complete depends on your specific program. Clinical rotations can take place in any healthcare setting, although hospitals are the most common. When you're in a clinical rotation, you'll shadow other nurses and perform some basic tasks, like taking vitals, preparing an IV and escorting patients from one area of the hospital to another, to prepare you for a role post-graduation.

Clinical rotations are beneficial because you'll gain first-hand experience and exposure to several nursing specialties. Not only can you build your network and get to know other professionals who you may ask for a referral from later, but you can build on the skills you learn in school so you can feel confident in your chosen career.

3. Go through life support training

Because you'll be responsible for caring for patients, and may find yourself in a position where you have to perform life-sustaining measures, it's important to go through training and earn certifications so you're able to provide these services to patients if they need them. While every state's requirements are different, and employers may vary in their requirements too, consider earning your certifications in:

  • First aid

  • Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)

  • Basic life support (BLS)

  • Advanced life support (ALS)

  • Advanced cardiac life support (ACLS)

  • Pediatric advanced life support (PALS)

4. Obtain your registered nurse licensure

Once you've completed your degree program, you become eligible to take the National Council Licensure Examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN) to become a registered nurse. The NCLEX-RN is a national exam that any qualified candidate in any state can take to earn their RN designation, and it covers important topics in healthcare management and patient care.

5. Apply for state licensure

With a passing score on the NCLEX-RN, you'll be able to apply for state licensure in the state where you life. Each state's board of nursing requirements is different, so check with yours to see what it requires. It's common for nurses to pay a licensing fee, get fingerprinted and go through a background check before being able to work as a nurse.

6. Work in the field of nursing

Before working in nephrology, most employers require that you have experience working as a general nurse first. Consider working in another area of the hospital or other healthcare facility as you work toward becoming a dialysis nurse. Some employers prefer that their candidates have experience in an acute care setting and impressive IV skills.

By working in the field, you'll meet other professionals who can help support you in your chosen field. Those who get to know your skill set and bedside manner may serve as a referral for you when you're applying for a position in dialysis.

7. Complete continuing education courses in nephrology

To gain additional experience and potentially stand out from other candidates, consider completing continuing education courses with an emphasis on nephrology. This will help you prepare for a nephrology nurse certification and give you the resources and knowledge you need to find success in the position.

8. Earn a certification in nephrology

A certification in nephrology can help you earn the position you desire as a dialysis nurse. Explore the varied certifications that the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission offers to see which fits you best. These certifications include:

  • Certified dialysis nurse (CDN)

  • Certified nephrology nurse (CNN)

  • Certified nephrology nurse for nurse practitioner (CNN-NP)

Most certifications in nephrology require a certain number of hours of experience working as a nurse and a passing score on an exam.

9. Join associations for nephrology professionals

One way to increase your chances of securing a position as a dialysis nurse is by joining associations for nephrology professionals. As a member, you'll meet others who work in the field who can answer questions about your chosen career path, serve as your mentor or introduce you to employers who are hiring dialysis nurses. You can also take advantage of networking events, conferences, trainings and webinars that the association hosts and provides to members.

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