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Dialysis Nurse Careers and Salary Outlook 2020

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Dialysis nurses work within the field of nephrology, a type of medicine focusing on the kidneys. Due to the importance of kidneys, these nurses save lives every day with their work. Before deciding to pursue the field, each aspiring dialysis nurse should make sure to do their proper research. Our guide answers important questions, such as “what is a dialysis nurse,” “what does a dialysis nurse do,” and “how much does a dialysis nurse make?”

Read on for answers to these questions, along with other information on how to become a dialysis nurse.

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What is a Dialysis Nurse?

Dialysis nurses specialize in aiding patients with kidney-related medical problems. Patients need dialysis nurses when their kidneys fail to filter out waste and unwanted fluids from their blood. Dialysis specifically refers to the process of manually cleaning a patient’s blood. A nephrology nurse performs similar tasks as dialysis nurses, although they may perform other kidney-related responsibilities as well, like helping with transplant surgeries.

  • What Do Dialysis Nurses Do?

    Dialysis nurses treat patients that suffer from kidney failure to help return their kidneys to a functioning state. These professionals are registered nurses (RNs), but some are advanced practice registered nurses and work within a specific medical position throughout their careers. As a subset of nephrology, dialysis nurses can help with the two types of dialysis: hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.

    During hemodialysis, an outside machine cleans a patient’s blood. Peritoneal dialysis involves cleaning blood inside the body with a special fluid. In both of these cases, a dialysis nurse attaches the machine or equipment to the patient, assesses the patient’s vital statistics before and after their dialysis procedure, monitors the procedure as it occurs, and records relevant notes and data about the process. Dialysis nurses also teach patients about their kidney conditions, the role of dialysis and medication, and how patients can best care for themselves.

    As with other forms of nursing, this position is highly rewarding to those who genuinely care for their patients. Some nurses find dialysis nursing even more rewarding than other specialties, due to the procedure saving lives so regularly.

  • Where Do Dialysis Nurses Work?

    Dialysis nurses frequently work in hospitals within nephrology departments. They spend much of their day on their feet, caring for different patients throughout their shifts. These nurses may work at dialysis centers and clinics, as well. These centers specifically offer hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis services.

    Some patients hire nurses to help them with hemodialysis in their private homes. Hemodialysis home nurses visit patients one-on-one, but they work with a team and communicate relevant information between the patient, family, and healthcare team at the clinic or hospital.

  • Skills That Could Affect Dialysis Nurse Salaries

    Dialysis nurses need many different qualities and skills to perform their responsibilities successfully. The dialysis procedure requires acute attention to detail. Dialysis nurses connect machines to patients’ bodies, and a small mistake could lead to a major problem in their health. Dialysis nurses also need compassion and communication skills. They spend their days talking to patients with illnesses, and they relay information to doctors and healthcare teams, as well. Since dialysis nurses stay on their feet for a significant portion of the day, they need physical stamina.

    Lastly, scientists publish new research and information about nephrology frequently, so dialysis can perform their tasks especially well if they stay on top of the latest industry news. Dialysis nurses can subscribe to journals, join professional associations, and attend conferences to stay sharp.

How to Become a Dialysis Nurse

Becoming an RN can take 2-4 years, depending on the educational path nursing students take. Aspiring nurses need to take a licensure exam to become RNs. On top of that, earning dialysis or nephrology certification can add another 2-3 years to a nurse’s career journey. Although this pathway might seem long and challenging, many dialysis nurses find the outcome rewarding. They work to ease the pain and improve the lives of patients every day.

The following sections explore dialysis nurse requirements that professionals need to work in the nephrology field.


Universities do not specifically offer dialysis nurse degrees. Instead, each aspiring dialysis or nephrology nurse must first earn an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) to qualify for an RN license. ADNs typically last two years, and BSNs generally take four years of full-time enrollment to complete.

While both degrees lead to RN licenses, a BSN can lead to better pay and more job opportunities. Some nurses earn their RN licensure after their ADNs before returning to school for RN-to-BSN programs. Hospitals commonly offer diploma programs, as well. Check with your state’s licensing board to ensure that your educational program meets all of the state’s requirements.

Training and Certification

First, each dialysis nurse must earn their RN licensure by completing a nursing degree with a certain number of clinical hours, working in supervised, healthcare settings. The required number of clinical hours depends on the state. RNs also need to pass the national council licensure examination for RNs (NCLEX-RN).

Nurses who want to specialize in nephrology can also earn certification in the field. Although not required by law, employers may prefer candidates with this extra qualification. The Nephrology Nursing Certification Committee (NNCC) offers two certifications for registered nurses: the certified nephrology nurse (CNN) and the certified dialysis nurse (CDN). An RN with at least 2,000 hours of experience providing services to nephrology patients may apply for the CDN certification.

The CNN certification requires that each candidate holds 3,000 hours of experience with nephrology patients. A quarter of these hours must include home hemodialysis, home peritoneal dialysis, acute kidney injury, kidney replacement therapy, or apheresis.

Dialysis Nurse Salaries and Job Growth

In 2018, RNs earned a median annual salary of about $71,730, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Dialysis nurse salaries vary, however, depending on multiple factors. Employers determine salaries in large part due to the cost of living in a certain area, for example.

Therefore, California generally pays a higher mean wage for registered nurses ($106,950) than Mississippi ($58,500), BLS data shows. The first chart below illustrates the cities with some of the highest nurse salaries. New York City and Los Angeles pay the highest mean salaries, but they also come with a high cost of living.

Other factors affecting pay include certification level and organization size. Years of experience can make a significant difference in salary, as well. The second table demonstrates that late-career dialysis nurses can make about $12,000 more than their entry-level peers, according to PayScale.

Highest Salary Locations for Dialysis Nurses
National Median $68,100
New York, New York $80,315
Los Angeles, California $59,869
Dallas, Texas $61,526
Houston, Texas $69,339
Chicago, Illinois $70,000

Source: PayScale

Median Salary for Dialysis Nurses by Career Experience

  • Entry Level: $61,755
  • Early Career: $63,939
  • Mid Career: $67,808‬
  • Experienced: $71,801
  • Late Career: $73,944‬

Source: PayScale

Related Job Salaries
Registered Nurse Certified Nurse Assistant Licensed Practical Nurse Registered Nurse, Emergency Room Registered Nurse, Critical Care
$63,393 $27,891 $43,528 $66,391 $72,656

Source: PayScale

Dialysis Nurse Resources

  • American Nephrology Nurses Association Established in 1969, this association connects about 8,500 dialysis and nephrology nurses through education and networking. Members can access ANNA Connected, an online networking site, and a web-based forum. They may also join local chapters, attend symposiums, search for jobs, and read publications through the online library. Students can apply for scholarships and grants, too.
  • American Society of Nephrology Any medical professionals working within the field of nephrology can join ASN, including nurses. The group offers many educational resources, including webinars, training sessions, and a mentoring program. It also publishes several journals and newsletters for members to keep up to date with the latest scientific research in the industry.
  • Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission This commission administers certification examinations for nephrology and dialysis nurses. Nurses aiming for certification can visit this website to find test blueprints and certification preparation guides. The website also provides other helpful information, such as exam sites and dates, a directory of certified professionals, and recertification guidelines.
  • Job Search This site’s popular job search engine collects job opportunities for nurses across the country. Users can narrow their search terms to nursing jobs in renal/dialysis. Individuals can also search by location, contract type, and whether they want to work full or part time.
  • International Society of Nephrology This organization operates with more than 8,000 members all over the world. ISN runs several programs focusing on kidney health, like bringing home dialysis access to underserved communities. Dialysis nurses can learn more about their field through ISN webinars and research journals. They can also apply for travel grants to attend ISN conferences or symposiums around the world.
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