How to Become a Dialysis Technician

Overview

Technician caring for a patient

Kidney dialysis makes the difference between life and death for those who suffer from renal failure. Dialysis technicians administer this life-sustaining procedure all in a day’s work. These technicians, also known as hemodialysis or nephrology technicians, maintain and operate the equipment used for dialysis, a process that cleanses the blood of metabolic waste products.

Patients generally receive dialysis at a hospital or clinic, with an attending healthcare professional present while the technician operates the medical equipment. Dialysis technicians also prep patients, give local anesthesia, monitor patients’ progress and create written reports for the doctor. Without dialysis, patients with renal failure would have few options; dialysis technicians help these patients reclaim life one dialysis at a time.

Work Environment

Dialysis technicians work primarily in hospitals or clinics, and sometimes in patients’ private homes. They usually work 40-hour weeks, although they may also work part time with more flexible hours. Dialysis technicians must work under the supervision of a registered nurse or physician. Those who work in 24-hour hospitals and clinics may have to work some evenings and weekends.

Requirements

Education

Work as a dialysis tech requires a high school degree or GED as well as additional training in the operation of dialysis equipment. Vocational and technical schools, community colleges and online programs offer dialysis training, as well as background courses to help the student understand renal disease, body chemistry and hemodialysis procedures. Typically, coursework is completed in 12 to 18 months. Dialysis technicians should also know emergency procedures such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Training

Dialysis technicians are required to work in a clinical setting under the supervision of a licensed doctor or nurse to gain experience with the dialysis machine and procedures. Internships and job-training programs provide these opportunities.

Licensing and/or Certification

Every state has specific regulations regarding certification for dialysis technicians, so technicians should check the necessary requirements of the state where they want to work. Professional nephrology organizations set guidelines in this field and offer four types of credentials.

CCHT. The Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission (NNCC) offers a Certification for Clinical Hemodialysis Technicians (CCHT). Requirements include:

  • Six months experience with nephrology technology
  • Passing the exam

CCHT must be renewed every three years; candidates must demonstrate that they have:

  • Worked at least 3,000 hours as a dialysis technician
  • Completed at least 30 hours of relevant continuing education and professional activity

CHT. The Board of Nephrology Examiners Nursing and Technology (BONENT) offers a Hemodialysis Technician Certification (CHT).

Requirements include:

  • One year of experience with nephrology technology
  • Passing the exam

CHT recertification is necessary every four years. There are three options for renewing the CHT:

  • Complete 40 hours of relevant continuing education and professional activity
  • Apply for one-time waiver if 40 hours have not been completed
  • Retake the BONENT exam

CCNT and CBNT. The National Nephrology Certification Organization (NNCO) offers certifications in Clinical Nephrology Technology (CCNT) and Biomedical Nephrology Technology (CBNT) if the following are fulfilled:

  • One year of experience with nephrology technology
  • Passing the exam

Recertification is necessary every four years, and candidates must have 30 hours of continuing education.

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Because dialysis technicians work closely with patients who are ill, they should have compassion and empathy. The job’s physical demands require good manual dexterity to operate the equipment properly, the stamina to work long hours standing, and the physical strength to help move patients. Dialysis technicians should also be detail-oriented and have good communication skills.

Opportunities for Advancement

A dialysis technician with many years of experience, as well as additional education and training, can advance to position as head technician in a large hospital or clinic.  Technicians who work in small clinics will have less opportunity for advancement. Dialysis technicians who continue their education might advance into more specialized careers such as nursing.

If you would like to gain the necessary education to become a dialysis technician, we highly recommend that you check out our free School Finder Tool located HERE.

Salary

As of 2010, people working in dialysis technician jobs earned an annual salary between $24,210 and $56,040. The average salary was about $36,000. Hospitals tend to pay more, as do facilities in large urban centers.

Job Outlook

There are currently more than 350,000 people receiving dialysis in the United States. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in healthcare fields, including medical technician positions, are expected to increase by 15% through 2020. Hospitals and large clinics will have the most jobs available.

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