Dialysis Nurse Career Overview

NurseJournal Staff
Updated June 27, 2023
    Interested in a career helping patients with kidney failure? Here's everything you need to know about how to become a dialysis nurse.
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    how long to become

    job outlook

    job outlook7% growth from 2019-2029For Registered Nurses (RNs)

    average earning potential

    average earning potential$72,000SOURCE: PayScale

    Dialysis Nurse Career in Brief

    adn or bsn required
    certification options

    Dialysis nurses administer treatment for kidney disease, including hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. Dialysis essentially replicates the patient’s kidney functions, regulating blood and cleaning out extra water, salt, and waste from the patient’s body. In addition to carrying out dialysis, these specialized nurses:

    Primary Responsibilities

    • Educate patients and families about kidney disease and how to treat it
    • Record patients’ medical information
    • Assess patients prior to treatment
    • Monitor patients for any adverse dialysis reactions
    • Manage fluid and electrolyte balance
    • Communicate this information to doctors, in case the patient needs a treatment change

    Career Traits

    • Skills in operating healthcare machinery (specifically, a dialysis machine)
    • Good communication skills
    • Patience
    • Attention to detail

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    Where do Dialysis Nurses Work?

    Dialysis nurses work in a few different settings, including dialysis clinics, hospitals, and outpatient clinics. Many dialysis nurses travel to patients’ homes to administer treatment there, particularly in rural areas where patients may not have regular access to hospitals or clinics. Acute dialysis nurses work in ICU and other chronic care settings.

    • minusDialysis Clinic

      Meet with patients regularly throughout the week, offering hemodialysis or peritoneal dialysis treatments and monitoring patients’ reactions

    • minusAcute Care or ICU Departments

      Administer emergency dialysis or other kidney treatments to people experiencing extreme kidney failure

    • minusPatients’ Homes

      Take and set up equipment in patients’ homes, administer dialysis treatments, record patients vitals, communicate patients’ conditions with the hospital or healthcare facility

    Why Become a Dialysis Nurse?

    As with any job, working as a dialysis nurse has its pros and cons. While it is a fulfilling career for many, be sure to evaluate the advantages and disadvantages before you enter the field.

    Advantages to Becoming a Dialysis Nurse

    • check-circleSince you see the same patients frequently during the week, becoming a dialysis nurse allows you to cultivate relationships with patients.
    • check-circleDialysis nurses—and registered nurses as a whole—can look forward to promising job growth. As more patients age, they continue to need dialysis care.
    • check-circleOpportunities for career advancement. You can earn a master’s degree and work as an advanced practice nurse with a dialysis specialization.
    • check-circleSome dialysis nurses also travel as part of their job.

    Disadvantages to Becoming a Dialysis Nurse

    • x-circleEspecially for those working in acute care, dialysis nurses may work long hours.
    • x-circleLike in many healthcare roles, dialysis nurses may face burnout—especially when dealing with the emotional exhaustion of working with very sick patients.
    • x-circleSome dialysis nurses must go into the hospital or facility while on call, especially if only a few nurses specializing in dialysis work at that healthcare facility.

    How to Become a Dialysis Nurse

    Earn a BSN or ADN

    Nurses need the proper education before they can start their career. Either a four-year BSN or two-year ADN provides the nursing education necessary to become a dialysis nurse.

    Pass the NCLEX-RN to receive RN licensure

    Dialysis nurses must work as registered nurses (RNs). To do this, they need to pass the qualifying NCLEX-RN examinations and apply for licensure with their state board.

    Gain experience in dialysis nursing

    Specialty certification in dialysis or nephrology nursing requires some prior experience working in this field. Specialty certifications require 2,000-3,000 hours of experience.

    Improve your job prospects as a Certified Dialysis Nurse (CDN) or a Certified Nephrology Nurse (CNN)

    Although certification is not necessary for becoming a dialysis nurse, obtaining certification can increase your authority and help you find a job. In fact, some employers look for candidates with these certifications.

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    How Much Do Dialysis Nurses Make?

    Dialysis nurse salaries vary, depending on factors such as experience and degree level. On average, a dialysis nurse’s salary stands at about $72,000, according to PayScale data. Entry-level nurses in the field earn an annual salary of $59,150, while late-career dialysis nurses earn about $78,690, on average.

    Along with other registered nurses, the number of dialysis nursing jobs could increase by 7% from 2019-2029, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). That projected growth is faster than the average for all occupations.

    Specialty Skills for Dialysis Nurses

    Since dialysis nursing includes treating kidney disease, these nurses need specialty skills for this condition.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    How long does it take to become a dialysis nurse?

    This depends on a nurse’s education path. Nurses first need to earn a degree. An ADN traditionally lasts two years, while a BSN may take four years to complete. After earning RN licensure, nurses must complete 2,000-3,000 hours of work within the nephrology field to obtain certification. That could take 1-2 years. Overall, it could take 3-6 years to become a dialysis nurse.

    Is dialysis nursing considered critical care?

    Dialysis nursing is not strictly considered critical care. However, nurses who specialize in acute dialysis care work within the sphere of critical care. These nurses must give emergency procedures to individuals who need emergency or immediate dialysis treatment.

    How do you gain experience in dialysis nursing after becoming an RN?

    Before earning certification in dialysis or nephrology nursing, you must gain some experience working in the field. You can start by first participating in on-the-job training or continuing education opportunities focused on kidney disease and treatment. That way, you are more likely to find a dialysis nurse job at a hospital or outpatient treatment center.

    What opportunities for advancement are available to dialysis nurses?

    Dialysis nurses can keep growing in their careers by earning a master of science in nursing (MSN). This two-year graduate degree prepares students for advanced practice nursing, which allows them to take on more responsibilities, including meeting with patients independently. MSN graduates qualify for the Certified Nephrology Nurse-Nurse Practitioner (CNN-NP) credential.

    Resources for Dialysis Nurses

    • American Nephrology Nurses Association (ANNA)

      Established as a nonprofit in 1969, this group now hosts a membership of about 8,000 nephrology nurses. The organization fights for nurses interests in state and federal health policy. It also offers several opportunities for continuing education, including online modules, activities, and a digital library of resources.
    • Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission (NNCC)

      Since 1987, the NNCC has offered certification for nurses within the nephrology and dialysis specializations. Individuals can find plenty of helpful certification exam preparation resources online. In addition, the group offers research grants, career mobility scholarships, and advocacy awards for nurses within this scope of practice.
    • ANNA Educational Scholarships and Grants

      In addition to providing continuing education opportunities, ANNA offers several grants and scholarships ranging from $1,000-$5,000. The scholarships provide financial help for nurses who wish to advance their careers in nephrology or dialysis specialization, while the grants offer funds for nurses who wish to carry out research in their field.
    • International Society of Nephrology (ISN)

      About 30,000 health professionals specializing in kidney disease make up this global organization. The group aims to advance our understanding of kidney health through education, grants, research, and advocacy. Members can participate in education webinars and conferences, or they can get involved in research and advocacy efforts.

    Related Pages

    Reviewed by:

    Portrait of Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

    Elizabeth Clarke, FNP, MSN, RN, MSSW

    Elizabeth Clarke (Poon) is a board-certified family nurse practitioner who provides primary and urgent care to pediatric populations. She earned a BSN and MSN from the University of Miami.

    Clarke is a paid member of our Healthcare Review Partner Network. Learn more about our review partners.

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