Dialysis Technician Certification
Dialysis technicians, also known as hemodialysis technicians or nephrology technicians, treat patients who are suffering from kidney failure. Kidneys perform a host of vital functions in humans, such as cleaning the blood of waste products, balancing bodily fluids, releasing hormones, and producing urine. Although kidney function naturally declines with age, anything less than 10-15% percent of normal capacity is considered essentially useless and requires patients to undergo dialysis, a process by which a machine performs tasks that the kidneys no longer can.
Dialysis technicians operate these machines under physician supervision, and care for patients throughout each phase of treatment. In a typical day of work, a dialysis technician can expect to measure patients' vital signs, perform blood work, and run the hemodialysis machine. Most technicians are employed by hospitals, but some work in outpatient clinics or visit private residences.
Dialysis technician certification
Dialysis technician certification is federally mandated by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. The National Nephrology Certification Organization (NNCO) offers two types of certification, both of which are nationally recognized and accepted by all employers.
Clinical Nephrology Technology Certification covers the following:
- Principles of dialysis
- Patient care
- Dialysis procedures and documentation
- Complications of dialysis
- Water treatment and dialysate preparation
- Infection control and safety
- Dialyzer reprocessing
Biomedical Nephrology Technology Certification encompasses some of the same concepts, but focuses more on mechanical principles, rather than the patient-technician relationship. Items covered on this test include, but are not limited to:
- Scientific concepts
- Electronic applications
- Equipment functions
- Environmental and regulatory issues
- Dialyzer reuse and reprocessing
Both types of certification require an applicant to earn a passing score on an exam, and must be repeated every 3-4 years. Most exams are available year-round throughout the country. It is worth noting that NNCO isn't the only governing body for dialysis technician certification; other organizations, such as the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission (NNCC) and the Board of Nephrology Examiners Nursing and Technology (BONENT), offer similar examinations and have similar prerequisites. Check with your state board of nephrology to decide on a course of certification that fits your goals.
Educational requirements for dialysis technician certification
The path to dialysis technician certifications begins with a high school diploma. Students currently enrolled in secondary school who are interested in working as dialysis technicians should focus on classes like biology, anatomy/physiology and health in order to build a relevant educational background.
Although you don't need a college degree to become a dialysis technician, certification boards require some post-secondary education before allowing you to take any exams. Many community colleges, vocational schools and hospitals offer educational programs for aspiring dialysis technicians that take between six and eighteen months to complete and include supervised clinical experience in addition to traditional classroom hours.
Classes you're likely to encounter as a student enrolled in a dialysis technician certification program cover both theory and practice:
- Patient assessments
- Initiating and concluding dialysis
- Dietary regulation
- Hematologic aspects and blood chemistries
- Infectious diseases
- Complications of renal failure
Students who successfully complete a career-specific program, such as the one outlined above should find themselves well-prepared for entry-level employment as dialysis technicians.
Benefits of certification
Earning your certification makes you eligible for work immediately. You can work in the dialysis department of a nearby hospital or outpatient care facility; or, if you're willing to spend a little more time traveling, you might choose to work for a home dialysis company.
Opportunities for advancement depend on the size of the facility in which you're employed, but dialysis technicians who accrue several years of experience may eventually be promoted to department heads. Those who wish to continue their education can explore related careers, such as nursing.
- "How to Become a Dialysis Technician," http://www.innerbody.com/careers-in-health/how-to-become-a-dialysis-technician.html
- National Nephrology Certification Organization, http://www.nnco-cert.org/