Dialysis nurses provide extensive care for patients who suffer from renal failure or chronic kidney conditions. The need for dialysis nurses has expanded in recent years, thanks to the growth of kidney problems created by high blood pressure and diabetes, and to the evolution of dialysis technologies, which requires nurses who know how to operate this equipment. Registered nurses (RNs) who care for patients who have kidney disease also are called nephrology nurses. Most nurses who work with patients who have kidney problems will find employment in hemodialysis centers, or they can treat a patient at the patient’s home.

In 1973, treatment for end stage kidney disease (ESRD) by hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, or transplantation was funded by the federal government through the Social Security program. This action made ESRD the only disease-caused disability and became more readily available to people with this disease. As a result, the role of the nephrology nurse grew in scope, practice boundaries broadened, and the number of nephrology nurses climbed steadily.

Duties of a Dialysis Nurse

Dialysis nurse responsibilities vary, depending upon educational and work experience. Some dialysis nurses may monitor and implement nursing procedures and practices, and it may be their responsibility to ensure that drugs and keys are properly secured and equipment is in good working order and stored safely. Many nurses in this field maintain an inventory and order supplies. At the minimum, dialysis nurses often perform patient assessment, develop and administer dialysis plans and administer medications, fluid therapy/blood products and other treatments according to physician’s orders. They may also assist with teammate and patient scheduling, training new teammates, along with preparing, monitoring and maintaining dialysis machines and systems.

A dialysis nurse who has a history of higher education may be thrust into a leadership role, where that nurse provides leadership for the clinical staff in the day-to-day clinic operation, collaborates with the center’s director in personnel actions and plans and directs the nursing care of the patients. In all cases, a role for all dialysis nurses is teacher, as this nurse must educate the patient and family members on treatment issues, and educate the patient who is at risk for kidney disease about preventative care.

Related Types of Nurses

Dialysis nursing, or nephrology nurses, can be compared to nurses who deal with patients who have chronic illnesses such as cancer (oncology) or heart (cardiac) problems. Since health conditions such as these are ongoing, nurses tend to develop long-term relationships with those patients. Many nurses seek this type of employment, in contrast to those who wish to work in emergency or trauma situations. In the latter case, those nurses seldom experience long-term relationships with their patients.

Dialysis Nursing Degrees

Most employers seek dialysis nurses who have obtained an RN license from the state where that nurse works, a CPR certification, a CNN (Certified Nephrology Nurse) or CDN (Certified Dialysis Nurse) certification and hemodialysis or peritoneal experience. Many employers may ask for at least an associate’s degree and at least two years’ experience in this field, or a BSN or MSN depending upon the role desired within the dialysis care situation.

Online Undergraduate Programs in Dialysis Nursing

  • Chamberlain College of Nursing: RN to BSN
  • Colorado Technical University: RN to BSN
  • Drexel University: RN to BSN
  • Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences: RN to BSN
  • Indiana State University: LPN to BSN
  • Kaplan University: RN to BSN
  • Liberty University: RN to BSN
  • South University: RN to BSN
  • University of Phoenix: RN to BSN
  • Walden University: BSN

Online Graduate Programs in Dialysis Nursing

  • American Sentinel University: RN to MSN
  • Benedictine University : MSN
  • Chamberlain College of Nursing: MSN
  • Grantham University: RN to MSN
  • Kaplan University: MSN
  • Keiser University: MSN
  • Ohio University: MSN
  • Spring Arbor University: MSN
  • South University: MSN
  • University of Phoenix: MSN
  • University of San Francisco: BSN to MSN
  • Walden University: BSN to MSN
  • Walden University: RN to MSN

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Top 10 Online Nursing Schools

University of Phoenix
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