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Dialysis Nursing Careers and Training Information

What Does a Dialysis Nurse Do?

hemodialysis machine

People who suffer from kidney failure depend on dialysis to do the work that their kidneys no longer can. Dialysis nurses offer patients a new lease on life by administering this life-prolonging procedure. Dialysis nurses are part of a larger specialty known as nephrology nursing, and they have an in-depth knowledge of kidney disease. They support, medicate, and monitor patients throughout dialysis as well as educate them on kidney disease and the lifestyle choices that help them to manage their disease.

Most dialysis nurses are registered nurses (RN) or advanced practice nurses (APRN) who either work within a single hospital or hold a traveling position. This rewarding profession not only offers nurses the opportunity to make a significant difference in the lives of patients, but also offers more regular hours and opportunities for advancement than many other nursing specialties.

Workplace Details

Dialysis is administered in a hospital, a freestanding clinic, or a patient’s home. Dialysis nurses work in any of these settings. Working hours tend to be more regular than in many other nursing specialties – mainly because patients who need dialysis are typically on a regular schedule of daytime treatment. Nurses in hospitals, however, are often called upon to perform dialysis on an emergency basis at any time of day or night. This schedule is usually accompanied by increased pay and offers nurses a chance to provide life-saving support.

Salary and Job Outlook

State
Average Wage
California
$101750
Texas
$70390
New York
$80830
Florida
$64630
Pennsylvania
$68770

Hover over any state to explore local income and job growth data.

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ALABAMA

Median Salary: 
$55,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,870

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Birmingham$43,240$57,670$77,370
Huntsville$41,840$56,800$75,450

ALASKA

Median Salary: 
$88,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $65,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $116,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 190

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Anchorage$65,100$88,940$117,550
Fairbanks$69,190$98,120$119,580

ARIZONA

Median Salary: 
$71,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $52,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $96,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 3,500

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Phoenix$52,850$73,400$97,630
Tuscon$52,510$67,590$82,510

ARKANSAS

Median Salary: 
$55,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 870

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Little Rock$42,070$60,690$84,170
Fort Smith$39,910$52,140$63,430

CALIFORNIA

Median Salary: 
$100,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $64,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $147,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10,470

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Los Angeles$63,400$95,940$129,340
San Francisco Bay$83,120$132,970$167,920
San Diego$57,610$85,470$126,550
Sacramento$67,060$116,690$155,890

COLORADO

Median Salary: 
$68,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $51,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $95,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 33%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,350

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Denver$51,510$70,580$97,080
Colorado Springs$51,430$63,590$88,590

CONNECTICUT

Median Salary: 
$76,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $55,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $100,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 990

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Hartford$55,130$76,020$97,630
Bridgeport$56,590$75,830$103,110
New Haven$57,470$78,720$105,440

DELAWARE

Median Salary: 
$71,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $53,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $93,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 420

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wilmington$54,470$72,460$93,860
Dover$52,740$64,500$84,490

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Median Salary: 
$79,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $55,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $103,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 380

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Washington DC$53,890$76,030$101,360

FLORIDA

Median Salary: 
$62,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $46,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $82,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 8,110

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Miami$50,250$65,560$91,660
Orlando$43,490$61,570$79,250
Tampa$49,770$62,990$84,660
Jacksonville$48,910$61,610$79,810

GEORGIA

Median Salary: 
$63,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $80,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,980

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Atlanta$47,500$67,010$82,160
Augusta$46,880$65,910$88,340

HAWAII

Median Salary: 
$92,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $63,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $119,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 400

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Honolulu$63,930$93,970$120,600

IDAHO

Median Salary: 
$61,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,400

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boise$46,390$61,760$78,900

ILLINOIS

Median Salary: 
$67,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $45,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $99,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 3,970

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Chicago$51,580$73,220$103,790
Rockford$43,920$59,400$87,180

INDIANA

Median Salary: 
$57,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,510

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Indianapolis$43,290$61,450$81,840
South Bend$43,460$58,310$76,100
Fort Wayne$40,640$53,490$73,350

IOWA

Median Salary: 
$53,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $73,800

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,280

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Des Moines$41,010$56,420$75,160
Cedar Rapids$39,730$50,730$74,600

KANSAS

Median Salary: 
$56,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 760

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wichita$41,060$51,440$72,980
Kansas City$44,940$63,260$81,370

KENTUCKY

Median Salary: 
$58,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $77,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 36%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,670

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Louisville$44,330$61,510$78,730
Lexington$44,220$59,870$76,890

LOUISIANA

Median Salary: 
$59,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $83,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,910

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New Orleans$49,930$66,140$99,220
Baton Rouge$42,650$56,830$78,160
Lafayette$40,670$55,480$80,510

MAINE

Median Salary: 
$62,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $46,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $85,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 510

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$49,850$64,470$91,370
Lewiston$45,100$63,890$78,040

MARYLAND

Median Salary: 
$72,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $53,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $97,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 3,250

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Baltimore$53,920$72,460$98,440
Frederick$55,480$75,920$98,980

MASSACHUSETTS

Median Salary: 
$83,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $55,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $135,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,490

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boston$60,060$92,190$145,530
Worcester$52,460$82,700$142,480
Springfield$47,590$72,530$101,550

MICHIGAN

Median Salary: 
$65,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $50,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $89,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 3,370

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Detroit$52,500$69,600$105,020
Grand Rapids$48,130$60,180$76,730

MINNESOTA

Median Salary: 
$72,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $49,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $98,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,010

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Minneapolis - St. Paul$53,730$77,400$100,460
Rochester$41,210$59,810$94,640

MISSISSIPPI

Median Salary: 
$55,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $77,500

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,070

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Jackson$42,150$60,990$88,630
Gulfport$42,590$57,050$76,120

MISSOURI

Median Salary: 
$57,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $80,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,530

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
St. Louis$42,050$59,020$83,960
Kansas City$44,940$63,260$81,370

MONTANA

Median Salary: 
$60,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $47,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $81,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 450

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Billings$51,200$62,670$88,330
Missoula$50,750$62,420$87,110

NEBRASKA

Median Salary: 
$58,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $77,600

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 840

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Omaha$43,460$59,630$80,340
Lincoln$42,500$56,230$75,400

NEVADA

Median Salary: 
$81,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $58,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $104,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 860

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Las Vegas$62,700$84,080$108,390
Reno$55,940$75,620$98,560

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Median Salary: 
$65,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $47,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $93,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 490

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Manchester$46,320$67,900$94,190
Nashua$46,310$63,890$91,400

NEW JERSEY

Median Salary: 
$79,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $57,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $102,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 3,000

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Newark$58,110$81,250$104,130
Trenton$52,450$71,710$93,130

NEW MEXICO

Median Salary: 
$64,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $50,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $87,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 660

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Albuquerque$52,550$66,430$88,630
Las Cruces$27,720$60,700$92,420

NEW YORK

Median Salary: 
$78,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $52,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $111,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 7,450

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New York City$62,140$86,520$116,630
Buffalo$50,970$70,090$93,740
Rochester$46,960$60,760$77,900
Albany$44,640$61,640$79,960

NORTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$58,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $43,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $79,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 4,190

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Charlotte$44,010$59,750$78,850
Raleigh$44,970$60,090$79,230
Greensboro$43,130$61,120$86,440
Winston - Salem$43,770$58,270$77,490

NORTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$57,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $43,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $75,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 24%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 400

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Fargo$43,820$58,380$76,530
Bismarck$43,580$57,070$73,580

OHIO

Median Salary: 
$61,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $47,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $80,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 4,830

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cleveland$52,280$65,220$80,050
Columbus$46,330$61,330$90,830
Cincinnati$47,490$62,580$81,990
Dayton$48,440$59,850$78,710

OKLAHOMA

Median Salary: 
$58,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $77,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,160

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Oklahoma City$43,130$60,220$78,470
Tulsa$43,630$58,820$76,640

OREGON

Median Salary: 
$85,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $61,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $109,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,280

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$58,970$86,940$112,620
Salem$63,450$80,010$103,720

PENNSYLVANIA

Median Salary: 
$65,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $47,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $93,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 4,890

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Philadelphia$53,320$76,110$100,010
Pittsburgh$47,760$61,520$80,320
Harrisburg$51,160$64,360$92,930
Allentown$51,170$63,980$86,160

RHODE ISLAND

Median Salary: 
$76,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $55,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $98,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 450

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Providence$55,000$76,050$99,370

SOUTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$59,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $42,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $80,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,600

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Greenville$42,380$57,960$77,620
Columbia$33,930$57,080$78,000
Charleston$49,680$65,020$92,470

SOUTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$53,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $74,700

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 420

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Rapid City$42,750$57,830$75,800

TENNESSEE

Median Salary: 
$56,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $41,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $76,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 25%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,440

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Nashville$41,930$58,810$78,640
Memphis$46,000$60,500$78,810
Knoxville$40,920$54,240$70,650
Chattanooga$41,680$56,130$74,340

TEXAS

Median Salary: 
$68,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $50,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $95,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 31%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10,820

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Dallas - Ft. Worth$52,170$71,920$96,640
Houston$55,040$76,670$98,900
San Antonio$45,920$65,450$89,960
Austin$51,570$66,340$86,640

UTAH

Median Salary: 
$59,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $79,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 33%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,150

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Salt Lake City$46,020$61,730$81,490
Ogden$42,940$57,090$76,880

VERMONT

Median Salary: 
$62,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $47,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $91,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 230

VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$63,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $43,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $90,900

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,380

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Virginia Beach$43,130$61,350$79,450
Richmond$44,170$64,510$85,180

WASHINGTON

Median Salary: 
$77,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $52,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $110,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 2,470

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Seattle$55,410$80,960$113,850
Spokane$50,630$73,400$104,950

WEST VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$56,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $40,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $78,400

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 590

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Huntington$39,560$55,600$76,120
Charleston$41,380$55,920$75,860

WISCONSIN

Median Salary: 
$65,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $49,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $90,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 1,860

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Milwaukee$51,600$67,980$91,900
Madison$54,670$73,910$100,370

WYOMING

Median Salary: 
$60,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $44,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $81,000

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 210

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cheyenne$47,920$64,100$88,730
Casper$40,880$57,560$77,510

Click here to see interactive state-by-state information for licensed practical/vocational nurses or nurse practitioners.

Depending upon geographical region, education, and years of experience, the salaries for staff RNs (including dialysis nurses) generally range from $47,120 to $102,990 annually, with a median salary of $68,450 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. LPNs make a median income of $44,090 per year. An LPN working as a Certified Hemodialysis Technician will make more than a non-licensed technician. As a general rule, hospitals pay higher salaries for dialysis nurses than outpatient centers or home care agencies.

Collectively, jobs for RNs are likely to grow much faster than average (16%) between 2014 and 2024, according to projections from the U.S. Department of Labor.

A greater demand for dialysis nurses is likely for several reasons:

  • Kidney disease is fairly common in the U.S, with about 10% of people affected by it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
  • Age-related diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes are common reasons for kidney disease, and the U.S. population is aging quickly
  • Despite the rise in successful kidney transplants in recent years, hemodialysis is still the most common way to treat kidney failure, according to the National Kidney and Urologic Diseases Information Clearinghouse

Compare Salaries by City

New York City NY Median Pay

$86520 Per Year

$41.59 Per Hour

Los Angeles CA Median Pay

$95940 Per Year

$46.12 Per Hour

Steps to Become a Dialysis Nurse

1

Earn a diploma or undergraduate degree.

Prospective licensed practical nurses (LPNs) who want to work in a dialysis setting need to receive a diploma from an LPN education program at either a community college or vocational school. These programs require approximately 12 months of study.

To prepare as a registered nurse (RN), a degree or diploma is necessary. An associate’s degree program will require two years of study; a hospital-based diploma takes about two to three years; and a bachelor’s degree will require four years.

  • Associate’s degrees are obtained at community colleges
  • Bachelor’s degrees are available at four-year colleges
  • Diplomas are earned at some U.S. hospitals in a hospital-based diploma program

Show Me Schools »

Undergraduate nursing students cannot major in dialysis. One of the best ways to become familiar with dialysis treatments as a student is to request a clinical rotation in a dialysis setting.

For more detailed information, please visit our guide to the nursing degree.

2

Become licensed in your state.

Before starting work, RNs need to have licenses. Passing the NCLEX examination is a standard requirement for nursing licensure, and certain states have other conditions that need to be met.

In some states, however, LPNs do not need a license to start working in dialysis because they often have limited non-nursing roles (as dialysis technicians). In the case of APRNs, most are licensed prior to entering graduate school.

Some RNs working in dialysis choose to become certified through the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission. Some of the available certifications are: Certified Nephrology Nurse, Certified Dialysis Nurse, and Certified Nephrology Nurse Practitioner. LPNs may also be certified as Certified Clinical Hemodialysis Technicians.

3

If your goal is to become an advanced practice dialysis nurse, enroll in graduate school.

Nurses who want to become advanced practice nurses (APRN) in dialysis can choose either a nephrology nurse practitioner program or a nephrology clinical nurse specialist program. Both of these graduate programs are two to three years in duration and culminate in either a master’s degree or a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.

4

Get training in dialysis.

Dialysis training is very technical in nature. Nurses who train in dialysis will obtain a new skill-set over a period of several weeks or months, depending on their nursing experience level. Before graduation, APRNs are already familiar with administering dialysis, so their training tends to be role-specific, whether it is direct patient care, education, consulting or research.

5

Looking into advancement opportunities.

Dialysis nurses can change their career direction by taking jobs as supervisors, head nurses, educators or case managers. APRNs can move to executive, academic or research roles.

Exploring Degree Paths

DIPLOMA PROGRAM

2-3 years, depending on prerequisites

In order to work as a dialysis nurse (also called a nephrology nurse), you first need to qualify for RN licensure. You can do this by earning a diploma, associate degree, or bachelor’s degree in nursing.

Until the 1960s, almost all RNs were trained in hospital-based diploma programs. Today the profession is moving away from the diploma as an entry-level credential in favor of the associate degree. However, diploma programs are alive and well in some parts of the country and are often more affordable than ADN programs.

Diploma programs have evolved in recent years. Some now partner with academic institutions to provide college credit, and a few even award an ADN upon completion.

In order to practice as a registered nurse, you must graduate from a state-approved training program. So before enrolling in a diploma program, check its status with your state’s nursing board. (Many boards list approved programs on their websites.)

While it’s not strictly necessary, attending an accredited diploma program has advantages. Independent accreditors like the Accreditation Commission for Nursing Education (ACEN) provide an additional layer of quality control for nursing schools. Many employers prefer to hire graduates of accredited programs. And finally, accreditation will be important if you eventually apply to graduate school in nursing.

The nursing diploma curriculum closely resembles the ADN curriculum, which we’ll discuss next.

ASSOCIATE DEGREE IN NURSING (ADN)

2-3 years, depending on prerequisites

Earning your ADN has certain advantages. Most importantly, you’ll be able to easily apply your coursework toward a bachelor’s or graduate degree. Some schools even guarantee this through articulation agreements with local colleges.

You can earn your ADN at many two-year colleges and career schools. Double check that the program you choose is approved by your state nursing board. Accreditation through ACEN is also desirable, especially if you plan to apply to graduate school.

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Many ADN programs have prerequisites in English, math, and the natural and behavioral sciences. These can take as long as a year to complete, so factor them in when planning your education.

ADN students take theory and science courses, attend labs, and work clinical shifts. Expect classes in:

Nursing fundamentals

Surveys the history, theory, and processes of nursing and introduces basic clinical skills.

Medical-surgical nursing

Learn to care for diverse adult patients with a wide variety of conditions.

Obstetrics nursing

Practice caring for pregnant and laboring women, babies, and young children.

Mental health nursing

Apply nursing concepts to patients who are experiencing depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other behavioral disorders.

BACHELOR OF SCIENCE IN NURSING (BSN)

4 years, with accelerated options available

Many employers prefer to hire dialysis nurses who hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or higher. Nursing schools offer several types of BSN programs:

  • Traditional – for students who are earning a first bachelor’s
  • Bridging – for diploma- and ADN-trained nurses
  • Accelerated – for students who already hold a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing subject

BSN programs are usually found at four-year universities and specialty nursing schools. Verify that your chosen program is state-approved before enrolling. ACEN and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) accredit BSN programs.

BSN students spend their first two years taking general education classes in English, math, the natural and social sciences, and the humanities. This is also the time to complete nursing prerequisites like anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and pathophysiology.

Years 3 and 4 of the BSN program are very similar to an ADN program. However, you’ll have a chance to take additional classes in:

Nursing research

Use the scientific method and principles of study design to evaluate the latest evidence.

Nursing ethics

Explore issues related to competency, informed consent, patient autonomy, and other dilemmas that can arise in health care.

Leadership and professionalism

Learn management skills that enhance patient care and support staff nurses.

Multicultural nursing

Study how diversity, values, and belief systems impact the delivery of nursing care.

MASTER'S DEGREE

1-2 years beyond the BSN level

Nephrology nurse practitioners can deliver more complex dialysis care, perform advanced procedures, and prescribe medications. Many also provide leadership to dialysis programs and hospital nephrology units.

You can become a nephrology nurse practitioner by earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN). Nephrology nurse practitioners train in many specialties, but most commonly in adult-gerontology acute care.

Most MSN programs are housed within universities. It’s important to select a program approved by your state board of nursing. Accreditation also matters at this level. For example, you must attend an ACEN- or CCNE-accredited program in order to sit for board certification in adult-gerontology acute care.

Admissions policies vary across nurse practitioner programs and specialties. Some require a BSN and clinical experience. Others will accept ADNs and students with non-nursing bachelor’s degrees. In the latter cases, students must usually complete prerequisite courses before applying.

Most nurse practitioner programs kick off with required classes in:

Advanced health assessment

Practice taking histories and performing physicals on patients with complex health conditions.

Advanced pharmacotherapeutics

Learn to make smart decisions about the use of medication in complex patients with multiple conditions.

Collaborative management

Gain the skills to diagnose and treat complex health problems as part of a health care team.

Evidence-based practice

Use nursing research to support decision-making, inform treatment, and improve clinical quality.

In addition, nurse practitioner students complete clinical shifts in their specialty. The program culminates with a preceptorship in which students are paired with a mentor to deepen their skills and practice. This is a great way to gain experience in advanced dialysis nursing and nephrology.

Keys to Success as a Dialysis Nurse

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Knowledgeable about kidney disease

Dialysis nurses must have a comprehensive knowledge of kidney disease and be able to apply this knowledge to their practice.

Technologically savvy

Sophisticated technical skills are required in all types of dialysis not only to operate the complex machinery, but also to work with the many types of intravenous lines required.

Detail-oriented

Dialysis nurses must have a keen attention to detail, as administering dialysis requires strict adherence to protocols.

An effective teacher

Dialysis nurses also need strong motivational and educational skills, as they teach patients of all ages and backgrounds about their disease and motivate patients to take care of themselves. APRNs in dialysis settings need to have strong leadership and teaching skills, and be able to analyze and apply research findings.

Additional Credentials

The Nephrology Nurse Certificate Commission (NNCC) offers three optional certifications for registered nurses working in nephrology and dialysis settings:

  • Certified Nephrology Nurse Practitioner (CNN-NP) – requires licensure and certification in any nurse practitioner specialty, a master’s degree, 2,000 practice hours in nephrology, and 60 hours of nephrology continuing education
  • Certified Nephrology Nurse (CNN) – requires a BSN plus 3,000 hours of experience and 30 hours of continuing education in nephrology nursing
  • Certified Dialysis Nurse (CDN) – requires 2,000 hours of work experience and 20 hours of continuing education in dialysis nursing
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