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Dialysis Tech Jobs

What is the job of a dialysis technician?

Many people are unaware that dialysis technician jobs even exist, let alone understand what the responsibilities of this job may include. This rewarding health care job may involve caring for dialysis patients and operating kidney dialysis equipment. Dialysis patients have kidneys that no longer function correctly in making urine or removing excess waste from the body. The dialysis process may help those with non-functioning kidneys stay alive by removing the waste and extra fluids from the blood. There are two main types of dialysis. Hemodialysis patients are treated with a machine that has a special filter in which their blood is passed through. After the blood is filtered it is returned to the patient’s body. Peritoneal Dialysis is the other form of dialysis and involves a patient having a tube inserted into their abdomen to use the membrane lining of the abdominal cavity as a filter.

Are there different types of dialysis technician jobs?

Within this field there are a few different types of techs. Clinical dialysis technicians focus on patient care, including the set up

What other healthcare professionals do dialysis techs work with?

Dialysis techs may work with all members of the Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) patient health care team including physicians, nurses, dietitians, and social workers. Biomedical technicians, oftentimes referred to as Equipment Techs, fix and calibrate dialysis equipment, mix dialysate, and oversee the water treatment system.

Where are dialysis techs employed?

Dialysis tech jobs can be found at freestanding dialysis clinics, hospital dialysis units, physician’s offices, or home health care where they see the patients in their homes. Today, an increased amount of dialysis techs are needed due to the number of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) being on the rise.

Are there other titles for this profession?

Dialysis techs can be referred to as hemodialysis techs, biomedical techs, nephrology techs, and patient care techs. 

What is the average patient care technician salary?

The average patient care technician (PCT) salary can range widely, depending on location and number of years on the job, indicates payscale.com. In fact, as of June 2015, the national average wage for patient care technicians was $26,000, but salaries typically ranged from as low as $20,399 to as high as $36,610. Some factors leading to higher-end pay include profit sharing and bonuses, payscale.com shows.

The national hourly rate for patient care technicians generally varies from $9.77 to $16.61 per hour, with the national average hourly rate at $12.38, according to June 2015 payscale.com information. Location can be a factor, as some of the highest paying cities in the U.S. include New York, Phoenix, Baltimore, Detroit, Chicago and Houston. In fact, pay in New York was shown to be 40 percent above average, but this could be a result of a higher cost of living too. Skills or knowledge about patient education, dialysis, EKGs, intensive care and phlebotomy can positively affect salaries, payscale.com shows.

Individuals who start out as patient care techs may later decide to go on and pursue any number of other health-related careers, some of which could offer higher pay. These related careers include certified dialysis techs, medical assistants, licensed vocational nurses and registered nurses. Of these, registered nurses often earn the most with a mean annual pay of $67,970, shows May 2014 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Is there room for advancement as a patient care technician?

Patient care technicians, including dialysis technicians, may find improved job opportunities by gaining on-the-job experience. However, payscale.com reports that many patient care technicians move on to other careers, such as licensed vocational nurses (LVNs) or registered nurses (RNs), after 20 years.

The geographic location and employment setting where patient care technicians choose to work may also contribute to their potential for advancement. Patient care technicians can find employment opportunities in a variety of places, including hospitals, nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities. Patient care technicians can even work as private caretakers.

How to become a patient care technician

Individuals interested in becoming a patient care technician typically need to complete a college certificate, which generally takes about nine months to finish, according to the Rasmussen College website. This certificate often features classes in electrocardiograms, medical terminology and phlebotomy. Afterward, graduates may want to take the Patient Care Technician exam. More job opportunities, improved job security and even better pay can be the result of passing, according to the National Healthcareer Association that offers the exam. Certification can provide proof that you are knowledgeable about many important patient care tech tasks, such as obtaining EKG readings or doing phlebotomy procedures.

However, patient care technicians have many more responsibilities than these. They need to be able to get along with others, including nurses, patients and physicians, and may be tasked with feeding patients, helping them use the bathroom or brushing their teeth. They need to know how to fill out patient charts, distribute medications or even complete laboratory work, if needed, shows payscale.com. Some patient care technicians even specialize in operating machines for dialysis and other procedures.

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.

Dialysis technician schools include community colleges, hospitals and technical schools. Most dialysis tech programs are relatively short in duration. Some programs can be completed in as few as six to twelve weeks and others take up to 12 months. While some individuals seek out to make being a dialysis tech their first healthcare career, others who enroll in these programs include licensed practical nurses and certified nurse assistants who want the additional specialized training in treating dialysis patients. There are oftentimes weekend courses offered to those professionals already in health care such as LPNs. They are then able to get a specialization as a dialysis tech by attending the weekend class. Other times no formal education is needed for current health care professionals to gain specialization in working with dialysis patients. Instead they receive on-the-job training.

For those who are new to health care professions, typically dialysis tech programs include both didactic coursework to provide students with a solid foundation of the concepts involved in this field, along with clinical experiences so students can gain hands-on knowledge of the field.

Steps to Become a Dialysis Tech

The following are the most direct steps to becoming a dialysis tech.

  1. Job shadow techs working in a dialysis unit to learn more about the field.
  2. Perhaps earn a nursing certificate as an LPN or RN. This is not a mandatory requirement.
  3. Take a course on phlebotomy. This is not a mandatory requirement either, but certainly makes doing the job of a dialysis tech easier.
  4. Enroll in a dialysis tech training program or certificate program.
  5. Maintain basic life support certification. Having training or a certificate in phlebotomy is also helpful in this field.
  6. Sit for a dialysis certification exam offered through The Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission (NNCC), the Board of Nephrology Examiners Nursing and Technology (BONENT), or The National Nephrology Certification Organization (NNCO).
  7. Find a job as a dialysis tech.
  8. Maintain the necessary continuing education units for certification credential.

What type of training is required for dialysis techs?

The National Association of Nephrology Technicians/Technologists (NANT) strongly encourages formal dialysis technician training in order to become a professional in this field. However, sometimes dialysis technicians are trained on the job. To work in a dialysis tech role, most jobs require basic life support certification. Employers also prefer hiring dialysis techs with nursing certificates and experience in phlebotomy (drawing blood).

Formal dialysis technician training programs generally can be completed in the course of a year to 18 months. Typically courses included in dialysis programs are anatomy of the rental system, dialysis procedures and instruments, patient care, and nephrology (study of kidney disease), to name a few.

What is the history of this profession?

The National Association of Nephrology Technicians/Technologists (NANT) was founded in 1983 by 15 individuals in Philadelphia. The goal of the organization was to promote the efficient, safe delivery of dialysis to patients and also be recognized as an integral part of the healthcare field. Before the NANT was formed, dialysis techs were members of the American Association of Nephrology Nurses and Technicians (AANNT). However, the leadership of this organization decided in 1982 to recognize nephrology nursing as a formal specialty. The rules of the organization then mandated that all voting members be nurses. Since dialysis techs could no longer vote, they decided to form their own separate organization.


Sources:

  1. Patient Care Technician Salary, payscale.com, June 2015. http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Patient_Care_Technician/Hourly_Rate
  2. Registered Nurses, Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2014. http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes291141.htm
  3. Medical Assistant vs. Patient Care Technician: What You Need to Know, Rasmussen College, http://www.rasmussen.edu/degrees/health-sciences/blog/medical-assistant-vs-patient-care-technician/
  4. The Certified Patient Care Technician/Assistant (CPCT/A), National Healthcareer Association, http://www.nhanow.com/patient-care-technician.aspx
  5. "How to Become a Dialysis Technician," http://www.innerbody.com/careers-in-health/how-to-become-a-dialysis-technician.html
  6. National Nephrology Certification Organization, http://www.nnco-cert.org/

The Dialysis Technician schools, colleges, and universities below offer some of the best training available to medical degree seeking individuals. Request information from multiple registered schools in order to compare programs and find the best degree for you.

Dialysis Technician Schools