Dialysis and Renal Technology

If you'd like to work in a technical health care field and provide services to patients, a career in dialysis and renal technology might be a good fit for you. Read about this specialized field here, as well as how much you can earn and how much education you'll need to work in dialysis technology.

Is Dialysis and Renal Technology for Me?

Career Overview

The field of dialysis and renal technology involves the use and maintenance of dialysis machines, which filter out impurities from the blood of patients experiencing renal failure. Dialysis treatments run for 2-4 hours several times a week, during which time a patient's blood supply is removed, cleaned and replaced. Under the supervision of a nephrology nurse, dialysis technicians set patients up on dialysis machines and monitor the treatment process.

The professionals who maintain, clean and repair these machines are known as biomedical technicians. They are also responsible for replacing and monitoring each machine's water supply. In general, biomedical technicians don't have as much direct contact with patients as dialysis technicians. To work in this field, you need to meet certification requirements, such as exams, experience and education.

Employment and Salary Information

While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not record statistics specific to dialysis technicians, it does provide information for healthcare technicians and medical equipment repairers. According to the BLS, there were approximately 40,090 professionals who worked as medical equipment repairers and earned a median annual salary of $44,180 as of 2013 (www.bls.gov).

As of June 2014, Salary.com reported that the median salary for renal dialysis technicians was $36,085. Technicians at the lowest 10% of the spectrum were paid $29,235 a year, while those in the highest 10% earned $46,913 a year.

How Can I Work in Dialysis and Renal Technology?

Entry-Level Requirements

To work as a dialysis technician, employers want you to have a high school diploma or GED and be able to communicate well in English. Certification in first aid and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is often a requirement as well. Many technicians enter dialysis training programs, which are available at community colleges and take 4-9 months to complete. Coursework includes topics in hemodialysis technology, microcomputer applications, medical terminology and infection control.

Certificate and Degree Programs

Biomedical dialysis technicians typically earn certificates or associate's degrees in biomedical technology or engineering, which take two years to complete. Coursework covers topics in electronics, bio-medical ethics, semiconductor technology and physiological processes. These programs also provide hands-on experience with dialysis and other medical machines. Some machine manufacturers may provide training as machines are updated.

Required Skills

As a dialysis technician, you'll need to have good communication skills and a basic understanding of mathematics. Dialysis technicians should also be compassionate and attentive to the critical details of each patient's treatment.

Certifications

In 2008, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services mandated that dialysis technicians earn certification within 18 months of starting work in the field. There are several certification options for dialysis technicians and biomedical technicians which are administered by national certification boards. To sit for the certification exams, you'll need a high school diploma or GED and 6-12 months of experience in nephrology. Additional hours of continuing education, work or research are also required, especially to maintain your certification. Some states have additional requirements for certification.

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