What Is A Dialysis Nurse?

A dialysis nurse is a specialized nurse who takes care of kidney patients, specifically those with end-stage renal disease who needs dialysis treatments. Patients undergo either hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis. Dialysis nurses combine direct patient care and technical equipment know-how in both areas.

The dialysis nurse is trained on how to operate and maintain dialysis machines to ensure that they run smoothly during treatment. These machines filter and remove the waste products from the blood, taking over the function of the patient’s failed kidneys. Dialysis nurses also mix the solutions needed, prime the dialysis tubing where blood will flow, and prepare needles for cannulation. In some facilities, some of these duties are performed by dialysis technicians. Dialysis nurses need to check the treatment parameters and enter them into the dialysis machine interface.

Dialysis nurses are responsible for patient assessment, initiation of treatment, regular monitoring, and termination of dialysis. They must know how to troubleshoot machine errors and address adverse clinical events that the patient may experience such as cramping, hypotension, or seizures. Administering medications, drawing blood samples, documentation and making sure that the patient is comfortable throughout the procedure are some of the other major duties. Dialysis nurses must also participate in continuous quality improvement (CQI) programs to improve standards and outcomes.

Another important responsibility of a dialysis nurse is health teaching. Patients and their families must be informed by the nurse about the dialysis procedure, lab work, access care, diet, and insurance issues. Coordination with other health care professionals is needed to carry out this duty.

Dialysis nurses work under a shift supervisor, clinical manager or director of nursing. They work with nephrologists, nursing assistants, dialysis technicians, dietitians and social workers to make sure the patients get the most out of their treatments.

Practice settings for dialysis nurses vary from specialized renal units of hospitals to free-standing dialysis clinics. They care for acute and unstable patients in hospitals and provide maintenance treatments in dialysis centers for stable patients. With the rising cost of health care, more dialysis nurses are expanding their practice into home health dialysis services, visiting patients’ homes to instruct them about how to operate machines and self-cannulate, and teaching them about diets.

The dialysis nurse is expected to lift objects of considerable weight. He or she is also expected to stand and walk for long periods of time. The dialysis nurse must also be able to handle multiple patients at once without mistakes even with limited staffing. Treatments must be started and ended on schedule with little or no delays. Dialysis nursing can be described as routine and tiresome yet ultimately rewarding. Nurses in this field often like the long-term professional relationship fostered between them and their patients. They say they can see their hard work rewarded as the patient improves over time.

A licensed practical nurse or a registered nurse can become a dialysis nurse provided they undergo sufficient dialysis training. Some dialysis providers offer paid training for new graduate nurses. RNs are designated as team leaders who supervise LPNs and dialysis technicians. CPR certification is required and dialysis certifications such as Certified Dialysis Nurse (CDN) and Certified Nephrology Nurse (CNN) are encouraged.

The number of ESRD patients is growing rapidly and so is the demand for dialysis nurses. There will be a huge shortage of dialysis nurses in many facilities for years to come. The nurse who is thinking about going into a specialty should consider the bright career opportunities being offered to a dialysis nurse.

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