What does a Dialysis Technician Do?
A dialysis technician is essentially someone who maintains and operates dialysis equipment for patients diagnosed with kidney diseases. Also known as patient care technicians (PCTs), renal technologists, or hemodialysis technicians, they work closely with nurses and doctors, and are responsible for properly operating the machines according to approved medical procedures, ensuring that the patient’s blood is cleansed from any waste substances. It may seem simple but their jobs are actually a lot harder and more complicated than that.
Some dialysis technicians only work with machines while others work with patients as well. Whether the technician is the former or the latter, the job is still very hands-on. He or she should be comfortable working with high-tech machines along with different kinds of patients.
For those who only work with the machines, they are responsible for operating, calibrating, and making sure that the machines are in good working condition. Apart from that, they should make sure that the fluid removal rate is consistently adjusted to the patient’s vital signs. They should also ensure that the patient will not get any infections by properly handling and sterilizing the equipment.
Dialysis patients usually need the machines for more or less four hours a day, three days a week. The technician should be able to prepare the machines and the patients for the procedure, and monitor them the whole time. Dialysis technicians who are working directly with patients should also be able to help them feel comfortable during the whole procedure. He/she should also advise the nurse/doctor regarding the patient’s physical or emotional concerns during the treatment. He/she should have a positive attitude, knowledge and willingness to care for the patient and educate him/her regarding the procedure, and commitment to maintain patient confidentiality.
There are two kinds of kidney dialyses: hemodialysis and peritonial dialysis. The former cleans the blood externally while the latter does it internally. Dialysis technicians should be able perform both.
A typical daily routine for the dialysis technician would be something like this:
- Set up and operate the machines used for the treatment. This includes sanitizing the equipment, attaching the dialyzer and tubing to the machine, mixing the solutions needed for the procedure, and machine calibration, if needed.
- Accompany patient to the dialysis room and prep him/her for the treatment. This includes taking the patient’s weight, blood pressure, temperature, etc. before the treatment.
- Explain the whole procedure so that the patient will have an understanding about it.
- Clean the area of access, and connect the machine to the patient.
- Make sure that everything is placed properly, and that the equipment settings are in accordance to safety standards.
- Start the procedure and continuously monitor and inspect the patient for any adverse reactions. If needed, dialysis technicians can also administer local anesthesia.
- After the procedure, take the patient’s post-dialysis vital signs.
- Depending on their workload, the dialysis technician may also be tasked to write reports, order supplies, scheduling sessions, and disposing medical waste.
In short, dialysis technicians, along with nurses and doctors, are essential in reclaiming patient’s lives, one dialysis procedure at a time.
Usually, dialysis technicians can be seen working in public or private hospitals, under the direct supervision of a doctor and/or a nurse. However, there are also some that work in laboratories, under private companies and clinics, or even in patient’s homes.
Those who work in hospitals usually do so at regular hours for more or less forty hours every week while those working for private institutions may have different working hours depending on the company. Of course, because they are crucial to the patient’s recovery, dialysis technicians are always expected to work full-time, sometimes even at night, at weekends, or even during holidays. However, there are also many technicians nowadays that only work part-time.
There used to be a time when patients had to be connected to the machines for 20 hours in a row, but due to technological advances, the procedures can now be done in 4 hours. Depending on the gravity of the patient’s sickness, some can even be done in an hour. This means that the technician’s monitoring time has gradually become less but is still definitely as important. Most of the time, dialysis technicians are required to work standing up so that they can properly determine the patient’s condition and/or any adverse reactions that they might have during the procedure. For this reason, it is best for the technician to be quite fit physically and mentally.
The most important thing about being a dialysis technician, however, is the ability to remain calm in cases of emergencies. In a hospital setting, or even in private institutions or homes, there will always be the risk of accidents or other medical emergencies connected to kidney dialysis. The dialysis technician should be able to handle these calmly, carefully, and with composure. He or she must also learn how to encourage and understand the different kinds of patients that he/she will encounter. Finally, teamwork is also a very important skill to learn because they will always work hand in hand with doctors and nurses.
Whether they are working in a hospital, a private institution or clinic, or in a patient’s home, dialysis technicians should always make sure to keep a sterile work environment. This means that the machines, whether portable or not, should always be kept clean and sanitized. It also means that the technician himself (or herself) should be clean and hygienic, so as not to contaminate the patient and machines.
How to Become a Dialysis Technician:
It’s really a matter of big concern that the number of kidney patients have increased all over the world in the past few years. An important organ of our body, the main work of a kidney is to filter wastes and toxins from the blood stream. In case, one of the kidneys of a person fails, he may survive with one healthy kidney but, the person suffers from the risk of renal failure which can even lead to death. To help such patients, the dialysis treatment certainly proves to be a boon which helps the person suffering from kidney problems to live longer by cleansing the blood of the whole body. The best part is that this life saving treatment is not only available in hospitals or clinics but, also in home based settings for the easy reach of the patients in times of emergency. An assistant healthcare professional is always available when the dialysis treatment is given by the dialysis technician to the patient.
The primary task of a dialysis technician who is also popularly called as hemodialysis or nephrology technician is to maintain and operate the necessary medical equipment. Apart from this, various other routine tasks performed by a dialysis technician include keeping a record of the medical histories and blood pressure readings of the patients. Before giving dialysis treatment to the patient, it’s the work of a dialysis technician to prepare the patient for the process by giving local anesthesia. During the treatment, he keeps a check on the progress of the treatment given to the patient and notes down everything for the information of the doctor under whose supervision he works.
The number of people requiring dialysis treatment on a daily basis has increased to a large extent in the past few years. To handle such patients carefully, the requirement for well trained and certified dialysis technicians have also increased. There are both online as well as on campus training and certification programs available for the people interested to establish themselves as dialysis technicians which include various technical courses, community colleges and accredited online schools.
Required Education and Training
To work as a dialysis technician, a person must hold a high school degree or GED. Apart from this, he should also have practical experience and training in operating dialysis equipments.
One can opt for any vocational and technical school, community college or any online program which provides dialysis training. It’s of utmost importance to choose a course which offers background knowledge for understanding renal disease.
and hemodialysis methods in a better way. These are basically short duration courses which are completed with in a span of 12-18 months.
Apart from this, for handling complex situations, a dialysis technician should also be trained on emergency procedures such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR. For gaining practical experience in the field, a dialysis technician may work under the supervision of a licensed doctor or nurse in a clinical setting through an internship or job training program. This helps the technician in attaining expertise in handling the dialysis machine and following other standard dialysis procedures.
Significance of Certification
To gain better opportunities and higher pay in this field, it’s always recommended to gain certification. As all states differ in regulations regarding certification for dialysis technicians so, all the necessary requirements for the specific state should be checked before applying for the certification exam. Some of the major organizations which offer certification to the dialysis technicians include the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission or NNCC, the Board of Nephrology Examiners Nursing and Technology or BONENT and the National Nephrology Certification Organization or NNCO.
As per a survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in the field of dialysis are expected to show a steep growth in the number of opportunities as well as salary. While working as a dialysis technician, one can also continue his education and add qualification and experience to gain better positions in the field with higher pay.
Dialysis Technician Training Programs
Technically, you can apply to become a dialysis technician as long as you have a high school diploma. However, many clinics and hospitals prefer applicants who have completed training programs and have had clinical experiences. It would also help if you took courses in health and science, if you volunteered or worked in a hospital, and if you have a strong mechanical ability.
Some companies may also require you to have a certification, which really is no problem at all because there are many community colleges, training centers, and vocational schools that offer these programs. The requirements for certification may differ depending on the area you are in but there are many organizations that offer standardized testing for certified dialysis technicians. In today’s technological world, you can even take dialysis programs and trainings through online courses. The course is usually finished within 12 to 18 months—a short amount of time in exchange for the lifelong benefits you can get from becoming a trained and certified dialysis technician.
Technically though, the real training for dialysis technicians starts during the first day on the job. Though technicians learn about the basics, such as theories and fundamentals, in the certification courses, actual hands-on training will only start on the first day of the job. They will typically learn everything they need to know under the supervision of a registered nurse or doctor.
No matter how much a technician learns from the books, each medical case will always be unique, so technicians in training will get to experience how to properly handle situations on the spot in a calm and elegant manner. These on-the-job training opportunities are available from community college programs or sponsored by employers.
Having a good and stable job is very important, so you cannot be lax about it. There will always come a time when someone younger or better comes along who will threaten your position as a dialysis technician. For this reason, many technicians opt to attend additional trainings or get additional certifications. Some professional nephrology organizations offer four types of credentials when it comes to dialysis technicians:
- Certification for Clinical Hemodialysis Technicians (CCHT)
- Students must pass the examination and are required to have at least 6 months of experience as a dialysis technician
- Must be renewed every 3 years, given that the applicant has worked at least 3,000 hours as a technician, and has had at least 30 hours of continuing professional education and activity
- Hemodialysis Technician Certification (CHT)
- Students must pass the examination and have at least one year of experience as a dialysis technician
- Must be renewed every four years, provided:
- Applicant has completed 40 hours of continuing professional education, OR
- Apply for a waiver if 40 hours cannot be completed
- Clinical Nephrology Technology (CCNT) and Biomedical Nephrology Technology (CBNT)
- Students must pass the examination and have at least one year of experience as dialysis technician
- Must be renewed every four years, provided that the applicant has completed 30 hours of continuing professional education
These certifications are recognized and accepted by many different institutions, which therefore enhances a technician’s credibility. For this reason, many technicians opt to take them.
There are two kinds of dialysis technicians: those who have direct patient interaction and those who only manage the machines. Though they are separate jobs per se, there is no denying the fact that they will often crossover. For this reason, it is important that the dialysis technician is trained in both patient and machine care. Apart from that, dialysis technicians should also be trained in CPR and other emergency procedures, just in case.
Of course, with all the training and certifications dialysis technicians have to undergo, they have to get something from it. Those interested in advancing to supervisory positions instead of staying a dialysis technician forever would do well to get an associate degree in nephrology or medical technology because these provide an intensive background on dialysis.
Working in large hospitals or clinics is also an advantage for dialysis technicians looking for advancement because they get to encounter and learn from a lot of different kinds of patients and situations. Apart from that, they also have some room for advancement. With sufficient training, continuing professional education and work experience, dialysis technicians can choose to advance as head technicians or to more specialized fields such as nursing or medical technology.
Keep in mind that trainings and continuing education is not mandatory for dialysis technicians but it will definitely help them further their career. Unfortunately, since there are limited patients in small clinics and private homes, there is not much room for training or growth. It is still a good option for those who are in it to help others but not so much for career growth and advancement.
Salary of a Dialysis Technician
The job of a dialysis technician is no joke. They are responsible for other people’s lives, and a single mistake can have a huge effect on others. Logic states that this big a risk should also reap big rewards. But how much do dialysis technicians really make in a year? According to various sources, the median annual salary of a dialysis technician in the United States is around $36,700, with the lowest amount at around $28,700 to the highest being $46,000, more or less.
Though there is a set median on how much dialysis technicians can make, the income really depends on where you work in. Some states, such as Pennsylvania, Colorado, or Illinois, pay a lot for this kind of job while other states such as Tennessee don’t pay as much. Usually, this depends on whether the area is urban or rural, and how many people live in the area. The rate of pay would also be different from country to country, depending on their salary standards and requirements.
Of course, like every other job, a person’s work experience and tenure will also greatly affect his or her salary. Those who are more experienced and have worked longer in the company will definitely be earning more than those who are newly hired. Similarly, those who have certifications will earn more than those who don’t. The quality of work will still be greatly considered but the experience and tenure still weigh a lot when it comes to deciding on salary rates because logic dictates that the more experience you have in doing something and the longer you’ve been doing it, the greater you will be at it. Employers who value tenure may pay new technicians as low as $8.80 an hour and those working with them for over 10 years as much as $20 an hour.
Other factors that can affect a dialysis technician’s salary is his/her educational attainment, the type of facility that he/she works in, and his/her overall job attitude, among others. Of course, the higher the educational attainment, the higher the salary. Employers would always assume that you learned more valuable and important information in your extra years of school. As for the type of facility, a large clinic or hospital would have a bigger capacity to pay a higher salary than a home-based patient or a small clinic. This is because of the additional income they have from other aspects of the hospital.
There will be times when dialysis technicians will need to work more than the required hours, whether to cover for someone or because a patient has requested them. When this happens, they will also be entitled to overtime pay. The overtime pay, like the basic pay, will also depend on the institution they work in, and may vary according to the technician’s tenure and credentials. Of course, overtime pay should always be greater than basic pay.
Apart from the regular cash salary given to the dialysis technician, they can also enjoy other benefits such as social security, pension, disability insurance, and many others. These additional benefits can reach up to $49,000 in a year when converted to cash.
The mode of salary payment will depend on the company and the state you are in, because each state would have different requirements. No matter which state you are in, though, you will still need to fulfill certain conditions before availing the benefits of the job.
Salary-wise, becoming a dialysis technician is one of the best jobs in the healthcare setting because you can earn a decent living without having to spend all those years in school or in training. The starting pay is enough to cover basic living expenses, and you will only have to attend training if you want to advance in your career. Otherwise, you can already survive on your starting salary.
One reason why dialysis technician’s salaries are quite satisfactory is because there are a lot of hospitals needing them with only a few people actually staying and working as dialysis technicians. Others head on to become nurses or even doctors while others move to different fields. With all the job openings and only a few takers, it is just right for the salary to be pleasing to the technician’s pockets. They may not earn as much as nurses or doctors but at least they have enough to survive.
It is safe to say that being a dialysis technician is more of a calling than a job. People in it for the money will never be satisfied with the salary rate of technicians but those who really care about helping people and giving them another shot at life will definitely enjoy it. After all, it’s not always the money that keeps us going but how at peace we feel after each day.
The employment outlook for dialysis technicians is very good for the upcoming years. There is steady growth in the field and there is a dire need for certified and qualified workers. Studies show that this important role will continue to grow until the year 2020, especially as the current population ages.
There is a projected 30% growth in the job outlook for medical and clinical technicians, from the year 2012 to the year 2022. This means that there will be a lot more demand for dialysis technicians, along with other medical technicians in the coming years. This projected growth is actually higher than the growth projected for other jobs, and may be attributed to the fact that there are a lot of middle-aged people now who may need dialysis in the future. The lifestyle habits of the baby boomers of today (partying, booze, fast food, pills, etc.) are definitely tell-tale factors that many of them will suffer from kidney problems in the future, which is good news for aspiring dialysis technicians. The easy access to healthcare everywhere around the world can also be a contributing factor in the growth of the job outlook for dialysis technicians.
According to recent findings, the US healthcare system alone will need to create at least 3.8 million jobs in the coming years to account for everyone that needs treatment, which is good news for those who are venturing into the healthcare field. For the dialysis technicians, the even better news is that of all the Americans in the country, a whopping 26 million suffer from chronic kidney diseases, all of who need kidney treatments that only dialysis technicians can provide. Adding this to the population of those suffering from kidney diseases in every country, we can definitely say that there is, and will be, a huge demand for dialysis technicians around the world.
With this information, we can say that there will be a lot more openings in the big clinics and hospitals for dialysis technicians. The best part is that these clinics and hospitals can help further technician’s careers by allowing them to attain higher positions such as head or chief technicians or biomedical equipment technicians, among others. Some employers also offer career advancements in other fields such as nursing. Of course, career advancement can only be given to those who continually push for further education and experience.
The good thing about offering higher positions and different career advancements to dialysis technicians is that their previous posts will be open for new technicians to fill. This, in turn, creates more demands for the job rather than allowing it to become stagnant. Smaller clinics and home-based patients may not be able to offer the same growth but at least they also help create demand for dialysis technicians one technician at a time. So if you are looking to become a dialysis technician, now is the best time to do it because you will be sure to have a sure and steady income for at least the next 5 years.