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Dialysis Nurse

Dialysis nurses work in the field of nephrology nursing. These nurses have advanced knowledge about kidney disease and the use of dialysis to reproduce kidney function in those with chronic and acute renal failure. Dialysis nurses closely monitor patients with kidney disease during dialysis, administer their medications, and provide them with teaching about how to manage their kidney disease.

Education Requirements

All nurse specialty areas require an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and successfully pass the state’s NCLEX-RN exam. Some dialysis units prefer you to have a BSN but may accept an ADN.

How to advance/career pathway

Dialysis nurses must be BCLS certified but may also need ACLS certification. There are two certifications you can pursue: Certified Dialysis Nurse (CDN) and Certified Nephrology Nurse (CNN). A CDN requires 2,000 hours of dialysis experience within the last 12 months, along with 20 contact hours of continuing education. A CNN requires you to have a BSN and 3,000 hours of nephrology experience and 30 contact hours of continuing education.

With experience, some dialysis nurses become nephrology case managers, transplant coordinators, or nurse educators. Others go on to get their MSN or doctoral degree as a Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) in nephrology. 

You can also get your Nurse Practitioner (NP) degree with nephrology focus and become certified as a Certified Nephrology Nurse-NP (CNN-NP).

RESPONSIBILITIES

There are two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Dialysis nurses must be skilled at administering, monitoring, and providing patient teaching for both. 

  • Patient assessment and monitoring: vital signs, lab work, foot checks, administer medications and watch for adverse changes in status
  • Safely administer dialysis by ensuring the machine is set up correctly and operates accurately
  • Patient teaching about how to self-administer dialysis if used in a home setting
  • Collaborate with nephrology physicians and notify them immediately for status changes

MOST COMMON CASES

  • Renal Failure: chronic and acute kidney issues
  • Renal transplant patients
  • Diabetics
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease

How to become a

Dialysis Nurse

  1. Complete an ADN or BSN program in nursing
  2. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for your RN license
  3. Have at least one year of experience working as an RN
  4. Apply to work on a dialysis unit either as part of a hospital or free-standing center 
  5. Apply for a CDN certificate after meeting prerequisites

Specialty Groups and Communities

American Nephrology Nurses’ Association 

  • Mission: “The American Nephrology Nurses Association (ANNA) improves members' lives through education, advocacy, networking, and science.”
  • Cost: $70-80, annually.
  • Perks: Access to educational resources, career-building opportunities, networking, leadership
  • development, and more.

American Society of Nephrology

  • Mission: “ASN leads the fight to prevent, treat, and cure kidney diseases throughout the world by educating health professionals and scientists, advancing research and innovation, communicating new knowledge, and advocating for the highest quality care for patients.”
  • Cost: Free-$395, annually.
  • Perks: Access to publications, educational discounts, funding opportunities, and more.

National Kidney Foundation

  • Mission: “[The NKF is] dedicated to preventing kidney and urinary tract diseases, improving the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by kidney disease and increasing the availability of all organs for transplantation.
  • Cost: $25-390, annually.  
  • Perks: Access to a variety of continuing education resources, evidence-based clinical practice guidelines, scientific research grants and fellowships, educational stipends, and access to clinical tools and resources.

The Pros

  • Can work in a variety of settings
  • Have a more predictable schedule
  • Gain technical skill using dialysis machines and applying nephrology knowledge
  • Develop close relationships with patient and family

The Cons

  • Difficult to care for patients with chronic diseases, sometimes for years
  • Must stay with patients one to one even if patients are frustrated or difficult
  • May not have help to troubleshoot machines if alone in an acute care setting or at a home
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Personality Traits

  • Advanced technical skills to operate dialysis equipment
  • Empathetic, compassionate and patient
  • Precise and organized to monitor renal patients
  • Strong interest in the function of the kidney
  • Enjoys patient teaching about nephrology conditions
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Average Salary

Dialysis nurses typically make between $51k - $90k, with a median salary of $69,713. A dialysis head, or charge, nurse makes, on average, $81,772. For the most up-to-date salary information, check out Salary Explorer.

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Certifications

Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission (NNCC)

  • Certified Dialysis Nurse (CDN)
  • Certified Nephrology Nurse (CNN)
  • Certified Nephrology Nurse-NP (CNN-NP)
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Work Setting

Hospitals, dialysis clinics, doctor offices or can also do home visits

Interested in learning more about what it’s like to be a Dialysis Nurse? We spoke to one to find out. Read What Does a Dialysis Nurse Do?