Dialysis Nurses work with the field of nephrology, a specialty of internal medicine that focuses on the treatment of kidney-related diseases. Dialysis nurses are one of several types of nurses that care for ill and critically ill patients.
When a patient’s kidneys are no longer able to allow their body to perform basic functions, a dialysis nurse steps in so that they are both able to recover and remain healthy and strong. The job of a dialysis nurse is not easy, with their positions being much more specialized than a general Registered Nurse (RN).
Before deciding to pursue the field of nephrology, an aspiring dialysis nurse should thoroughly conduct research on the position to make sure that it is right for them, including the expected salary. In this guide, we answer every question you need to know about working as a Dialysis Nurse, including salary expectations, education requirements, and what you should expect in this rewarding yet challenging career.
Responsibilities of a Dialysis Nurse
A Dialysis Nurse goes by several other names, including the Hemodialysis nurse, Renal Nurse, Dialysis Technician, and Nephrology Nurse. A Dialysis Nurse’s responsibility is to care for patients with kidneys that no longer function properly but ensuring that their bodies do not go into kidney failure.
The kidneys role in the body is not only regulating electrolytes and bodily fluids but also disposing of the body’s impurities and toxins. A Dialysis Nurse is an extremely specialized position that focuses on helping patients’ kidneys function as best they can by providing dialysis procedures and treatments. However, the role of a Dialysis Nurse expands far beyond this.
What Does a Dialysis Nurse Do?
A Dialysis Nurse is trained in using special equipment to care for their patients and ensure that the dialysis equipment is always working properly. A Dialysis Nurse can monitor patients in the completion of their dialysis treatments, providing support before, during, and after. These nurses can provide guidance for patients in managing their dialysis, including the proper diet to follow and which activities to avoid.
A Dialysis Nurse is trained in having a thorough and exceptional knowledge of the functions of the kidney in the human body and the processes that must take place in the bodies of their patients to keep it functioning.
Dialysis Nurses are responsible for ensuring that all dialysis equipment is maintained and kept in working order and must have expert knowledge on these machines to do so. One of the most important roles of the Dialysis Nurse is providing care in such a way that does not cause complications or inflections for their patients.
What Are the Limitations on What Dialysis Nurses Can Do?
While a Dialysis Nurse must first be trained as a general Registered Nurse, they often take further education to specialize in Nephrology Nursing. A Dialysis Nurse is specifically responsible for caring for patients with acute and chronic kidney diseases.
A Dialysis Nurse is not a doctor and must follow the recommended treatment plan by the referring physician. This also means that a Dialysis Nurse cannot prescribe medications. It’s important to note that patients undergoing dialysis need specialized nursing care that differentiates from day-to-day patient handling in wards.
What Procedures Can Dialysis Nurses Perform?
The field of Dialysis Nursing is subdivided into three fields, being chronic, acute, and peritoneal dialysis units. Each unit is responsible for providing hemodialysis, which is the most common type of dialysis. This process uses an artificial kidney, otherwise known as a hemodialyzer, to remove waste and extra fluid from the blood.
A patient’s blood is removed from the body and then filtered through the artificial kidney. It is then returned to the body with the help of a dialysis machine. A Dialysis Nurse is not only responsible for administering this procedure but is also an expert in running and maintaining this equipment.
Additional Responsibilities of a Dialysis Nurse
While a Dialysis Nurse is primarily responsible for providing hemodialysis, the role of a Dialysis Nurse includes but is not limited to the following:
- Assessing the patients’ vital signs and talking with them to determine their condition
- Teaching patients about their disease and answering any questions about the treatment they are administering
- Overseeing the dialysis treatment from the beginning, middle, to end
- Administering the correct medications to patients that their doctors have ordered
- Carefully evaluating patients’ reaction to the dialysis treatment and medications to avoid complications and infections
- Reviewing lab work, home medications, and activities
- Informing doctors about changes in their patients’ conditions
- Assisting patients in following-up with their transplant center
- Working together with the entire care team to deliver quality care in a professional, considerate and respectful manner to all patients
Opportunities for Career Growth and Advancement
Pursuing a career in Dialysis Nursing may lead to even more opportunities for career growth and advancement, thereby also increasing your potential salary as a Nephrology Nurse. Opportunities for career growth and advancement in this field include:
Becoming Specialized in a Subfield
While nephrology is a specialization in itself, you may find yourself specializing in a subfield in this profession. This may include specializing in providing care to a certain age group, such as adult, pediatric, or geriatric dialysis nursing. Other opportunities for specialization in Dialysis Nursing include continuous renal replacement therapy, palliative care, and organ transplantation.
Getting Promoted to Higher Positions
Building your credibility within the field of Dialysis Nursing will often mean promotions, especially in the case of those who hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and/or additional education and certification.
Promotions in the field of Dialysis Nursing include supervisory positions such as organ recovery, transplant coordinator, and nurse manager. You may also wish to shift your career direction to higher positions outside of the clinical setting, such as academics and clinical research.
Enter Advanced Practice Nursing
Dialysis Nurses who hold either master’s or doctoral degree can pursue certification as Advanced Practice Nurses (APN). An APN can act as the primary care provider for patients with kidney diseases instead of relying on a separate doctor’s orders. Advanced Practice Nurses can both write prescriptions and perform procedures under the specialty of nephrology.
Average Salary For a Dialysis Nurse
Registered Nurses (RNs) were reported as earning an average annual salary of $71,730 in 2018, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, the salary of a Dialysis Nurse varies depending on multiple factors. While nephrology is a specialized field, a Dialysis Nurse may not earn as much as a Registered Nurse, or they may earn more. Let’s take a look at how much you can earn in your nurse career.
What is the Typical Salary of a Dialysis Nurse?
The average annual salary for Dialysis Nurses is approximately $69,381, with an entry-level position earning nurses $50,000 annually. While this base amount is usually less than a Registered Nurse (RN) who does not specialize in nephrology, there are plenty of opportunities to increase your salary in this field with experience alone.
For example, a Dialysis Nurse with 1 to 4 years of experience can expect to make a minimum annual salary of $52,000. This amount steadily increases with experience, rising to $80,000 or more annually with 20 years or more of Dialysis Nursing experience.
What Factors Can Affect the Salary of a Dialysis Nurse?
Several factors can affect a Dialysis Nurse’s salary, including location, certification level, number of hours worked, years of experience, and organization size. Let’s explore some of the top factors in determining your salary level in your career as a Dialysis Nurse:
Your Salary Depends on Your Experience
As mentioned, your salary as a Dialysis Nurse will highly depend on your experience in the field. Many employers feel that experience is just as valuable as additional education. Dialysis Nurses with significant experience are often eligible for the same or more compensation than those with higher education.
However, it cannot be denied that holding a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree offers a higher compensation right off the bat for those with the same level of experience. While some institutions will provide an incentive or sign-on bonus for those who hold higher education, the same can be said for those with a high level of experience.
Your Salary Depends on Your Education
Dialysis Nurses who hold a minimum of a BSN are also eligible for roles that require more responsibility. RNs with BSNs will experience increased opportunities, including working in leadership and management roles, taking on charge nurse or nurse manager titles.
With additional certification and further education, such as a master’s or doctorate in nursing, you also may be eligible to join your healthcare facilities administrative team in a prestigious role like Director of Nursing.
As a Dialysis Nurse, it’s important to ask if there is a pay difference or incentive for those who hold an advanced degree or additional certification. Some employers may be willing to compensate you for completing additional education, whether or not it results in a higher salary.
If you’re already working as a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) as opposed to a Registered Nurse (RN), you may wish to consider participating in an LPN-to-RN program. This will not only build upon your existing education but will likely put you on a path to a higher salary.
Your Salary Depends on Where You Work
Nephrology Nurses can provide care in several different settings, including a hospital, a physician’s office, a dialysis unit, a nursing home, a prison, or a university. While the type of facility in which you work can influence your salary, it will also largely depend on the state you work in. Some states offer significantly more competitive compensation rates than others, which a variety of factors may influence.
Where Are the Highest-Paying Jobs for Dialysis Nursing?
The highest-paying jobs for Dialysis Nursing are currently in California, with Santa Clara, San Francisco, and Fremont all at the top of the list. Fremont, CA beats the national average by 16.2%, while Santa Clara, CA, averages an increase in compensation by 21.0% above the national average.
It’s important to note that Santa Clara, CA, has a moderately active Dialysis Nurse job market and only contains a few companies currently hiring for this type of role, making this position somewhat competitive.
The following cities are also known to have higher than average salaries, behind the three mentioned:
- San Jose, CA
- Alexandria, VA
- Oakland, CA
- Tanaina, AK
- Wasilla, AK
- Sunnyvale, CA
- Santa Maria, CA
If you wish to consider one of the above cities to settle in as a Dialysis Nurse salary, it’s important to consider the cost of living. Some of these states and/or cities have an overall lower cost of living, which will influence your final salary.
However, others also offer a higher salary rate due to a nursing shortage in their state. Therefore, carefully considering location may be a key factor in determining where you should settle in your role as a Dialysis Nurse.
Dialysis Nurse Jobs Outlook
The outlook for Dialysis Nursing jobs is very promising for those who hold the required certification and experience. In fact, the demand for Dialysis Nurses is expected to grow by a whopping 22% over the next decade. The rise in demand for Dialysis Nurses is due to several reasons, including the following:
- Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD) affects an estimated 37 million people in the US, equating to 15% of the adult population or more than 1 in 7 adults
- As our elderly population grows due to increased life expectancy, the need for nurses who can handle the demand is greater than ever
- Rapidly rising age-related diseases such as high blood pressure and diabetes are contributing to kidney disease
- Hemodialysis is the most common way to treat kidney failure
Dialysis Nurses have a high level of job satisfaction, along with excellent working conditions. While a Dialysis Nurse’s job does come with a certain amount of stress due to the high level of responsibility and high patient loads.
However, Dialysis Nurses who enjoy specializing in the field of nephrology enjoy helping patients enjoy a longer, happier, more satisfying life.
How Geographic Location Can Affect the Salary of a Dialysis Nurse
The average Dialysis Nurse salary can vary significantly depending on geographic region, with the overall average pay across the board being $33.59 per hour. Registered Nurse’s (RNs) and Dialysis Nurses have been reported as earning the highest annual salary for their field in California and the Northeast, with RNs living in the Southeast and North Central regions of the US earning the lowest annual salaries.
Before you immediately hop on a plane and move to California, let’s take a closer look at why geographic location may affect a Dialysis Nurse’s salary.
Cost of Living
According to a 2020 Cost of Living Index, California’s average city has a 38% higher cost of living than the average city in the United States. The cost of living in California highly accounts for this salary increase. With Santa Clara, CA, averaging an increase in compensation by 21.0%, this rise in salary is likely to be canceled out by the higher cost of living.
For those who are seeking a lower cost of living with higher paying nursing jobs, they may wish to consider Michigan and Idaho, according to data from Drexel University in Philadelphia.
It cannot be denied that California has the highest cost of living of any state in the country; however, it also has the greatest nursing shortage of any state, which also largely influences their increased pay rate.
Although California does employ the highest number of registered nurses in the country, a 2017 report by the Health Resources and Services Administration shows that this simply isn’t enough. California has a shortage of nearly 45,000 registered nurses, making this state the most in need of Registered Nurses in any state in the country.
Rural Towns vs. Cities
While healthcare institutions in rural towns in America may not have the highest pay rate on the market, they will gladly accept your help. Both attracting and retaining qualified nurses has long been a problem for hospitals in low locations.
Of course, this is largely due to the fact that rural towns cannot offer the competitive pay rate and lively social scene that larger cities can offer. However, rural towns come with their own benefits, including a lower cost of living and the avoidance of major traffic that you’ll find in metropolitan areas. If you’re truly looking to make a difference as a Dialysis Nurse, you may wish to consider filling a desperately needed-to-be-filled role in the rural healthcare system.
Can the Type of Facility Further Affect a Dialysis Nurse’s Salary?
While geographic location can largely affect a Dialysis Nurse’s salary, so can the type of facility in which the position is held. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that nursing jobs in outpatient care centers offer the highest median annual wages. This is followed in order by general medical and surgical hospitals, home healthcare services, physician offices, and skilled nursing facilities. It’s important to note that the presence of a nursing degree can further affect a Dialysis Nurse’s salary and contribute to the above factors.
Education and Certifications Required For a Dialysis Nurse
Several education requirements are needed to pursue work as a Dialysis Nurse, which find their roots in the same way as a general Registered Nurse. Let’s take a look at the education and certifications required to become a Dialysis Nurse.
It’s important to note that colleges and universities do not offer degrees that specifically specialize in Dialysis Nursing. An aspiring Dialysis Nurse must first earn either an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) to qualify for an RN license.
While ADNs usually take two years to complete, BSNs take an average of four years to complete while in full-time enrollment. Some programs or courses may be able to be completed entirely online with online nursing programs, except for the required clinical hours.
While it’s true that both undergraduate education options lead to RN licenses, a BSN is highly recommended over an ADN. This is because employers largely prefer to hire students who have completed a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and will often lead to a more competitive salary and better job opportunities.
Some nurses may choose to earn their RN licensure after completing their two-year ADN program before returning to school to complete their BSN. There are specific programs set in place to allow nurses with an ADN to transition to a BSN, with RN-to-BSN bridging programs.
Nurses should check with their current employers whether or not they will compensate them for returning to their studies in exchange for continuing to work at their facility.
Master’s Degrees in Nursing
While there is no master’s degree available that specifically specializes in nephrology, prospective Dialysis Nurses may wish to advance their education to a master’s degree in Nursing.
There are several pathways available to completing a master’s degree in Nursing, depending on your current level of education, which can help you complete a master’s degree in less time.
These include RN-to-MSN programs, BSN-to-MSN programs, ADN-to-MSN programs, and ASN-to-MSN programs. Master’s degrees will further help you advance your Dialysis Nurse career and will most often result in a more competitive salary.
Licensure as a Registered Nurse (RN)
After completing their associate degree in Nursing or their Bachelor of Science in Nursing, a prospective Dialysis Nurse must apply for their Registered Nurse (RN) licensure. The requirements for an RN licensure include completing a number of clinical hours along with their nursing degree or diploma.
The number of hours required will depend on the state. The prospective RN will then need to pass the national council licensure examination for RNs, known as the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN).
Training & Certification
Registered Nurses who are passionate about the treatment of kidney disease and wish to specialize in nephrology can then earn additional certification in this field. It’s important to note that this certification is not required by law to become a Dialysis Nurse.
However, it is strongly encouraged, and employees may not wish to hire a Dialysis Nurse without this qualification. The Nephrology Nursing Certification Committee (NNCC) offers two certifications for Registered Nurses who wish to specialize in the field of nephrology, being the Certified Nephrology Nurse certification (CNN) and the Certified Dialysis Nurse certification (CDN).
Requirements For Certification
To apply for the CDN certification, an RN must possess at least 2,000 hours of experience providing services to nephrology patients. In order to achieve the CNN certification, each candidate must hold a total of 3,000 hours of experience with nephrology patients.
A quarter of these hours must specifically include a combination of either home hemodialysis, home peritoneal dialysis, acute kidney injury, kidney replacement therapy, and/or apheresis. An RN must also hold a BSN to be qualified for this certification.
The NNCC also holds a Certified Nephrology Nurse to Nurse Practitioner (CNN-NP) certification. The CNN-NP certification is for Registered Nurses with master’s degrees in nursing who hold at least 2,000 hours of experience working in a dialysis care center.
It’s important to note that each state will hold its own requirements for certification and degrees. If you are unsure about your own individual state’s requirements, it is wise to contact the board of nursing in your state of practice to determine your specific requirements.
Is a Career as a Dialysis Nurse Right For Me?
While a career as a Dialysis Nurse is one that is incredibly rewarding, the road to becoming a Dialysis Nurse is not an easy task. A career in the field of nephrology involves a series of lifelong learning and skills development, which begins with education and certification as a Registered Nurse.
The salary of a Dialysis Nurse is competitive, with the need for this career expected to rapidly grow in the next ten years. Considering a career as a Dialysis Nurse means considering a career where you make a difference on a daily basis. If you have a passion for nephrology and a willingness to learn, it is never too late to get started with a career in Dialysis Nursing!