Give kidney disease patients a lifeline as a dialysis nurse

September 26, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Dialysis helps people with renal failure to live full and healthy lives. As a dialysis nurse you would use your knowledge and expertise in kidney disease and treatment to make each dialysis session safe, efficient and effective. A dialysis nurse is the lifeline for anyone who undergoes this complex procedure.


A pre-nursing student with her mentor Detailed job description

Dialysis nurses are experts in all types of dialysis, including peritoneal dialysis and haemodialysis. Peritoneal dialysis is a highly advanced procedure in which a specially formulated liquid is injected into the patient’s abdominal cavity to absorb the toxins. Haemodialysis is another advanced procedure that involves using a special machine to clean the patient’s blood of all toxins present. As a dialysis nurse, you would be responsible for monitoring the patient’s condition before, during and after these procedures and consulting with physicians and technicians when necessary.

Renal failure is a complex condition requiring the expertise of various specialists. To give their patients the best care possible, dialysis nurses work together with professionals from across several different disciplines, including dieticians, physicians, technicians and social workers. They are also responsible for helping patients understand their illness and the treatment options available and demonstrating how to manage their disease through medication and self-care.

In the case of a kidney transplant, the dialysis nurse continues to work with the patient while the patient adjusts to the new kidney. The nurse keeps a close look out for signs of infection or organ rejection and helps kidney transplant patients prepare for caring for themselves at home. Following up with their former patients to see how they are doing and to make sure they are taking the prescribed medications is part of the extended task of these professionals.

Dialysis nurses generally see their patients multiple times a week and often develop close relationships with them. If you are compassionate and caring with excellent analytical skills, a career as a dialysis nurse can be extremely satisfying.


Work settings 

These specialist nurses work in a wide range of settings, including hospitals, transplant programs, hospice and palliative care services, outpatient treatment centres, long term care facilities, nursing homes and home healthcare agencies. Work schedules vary depending on the job settings. Working in a hospital would mean rotating shifts that include regular hours as well as evenings, weekends and holidays. Working in an outpatient centre would involve working regular business hours with only the occasional evening or weekend appointment. Providing in-home care would entail working around the needs of the patient.


Necessary attributes

It is very important for nurses in this specialty to have exceptional interpersonal skills when working with patients and other professionals. Being a team player who can work well with professionals from various disciplines is just as important.

Many patients who suffer from kidney failure also suffer from other chronic conditions, including high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes. This is where attention to detail and strong analytical skills come into play so the dialysis nurse can safely manage different conditions at the same time. This is especially relevant in the area of medication safety.

Being emotionally mature and possessing excellent self-management skills are two other helpful attributes if you choose to pursue this speciality. As a dialysis nurse, you will be working long hours around very sick patients and these two qualities will help you to better support suffering patients without getting overwhelmed yourself.

Frequent contact with hazardous substances such as needles, blood and other bodily fluids is unavoidable in this line of work and you will have to follow stringent safety precautions to prevent any injury and infection.


Education & training 

If you wish to specialise in dialysis care you must be certified as a registered nurse (RN) or an advanced practice nurse.

To become an RN, you will first have to obtain an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing. Training takes about two to four years and includes hands-on work in various areas of nursing. In addition to the coursework, aspiring dialysis nurses can expand their knowledge base and increase their employability through courses in pharmacology, nephrology and nutrition, gaining as much clinical experience as possible caring for dialysis patients.