If you’re a nurse in a rut and looking for a change, then read on. Moving into a specialty like dialysis nursing may be just what you need to help you get your career back on track. Dialysis nurses work with patients with kidney ailments and basically assist with dialysis, including hemodialysis (in which a machine is used to clean the blood) and peritoneal dialysis (in which a special fluid is injected into the person’s abdominal cavity to absorb toxins). If you’re already experienced in the field and longing for adventure, then pack your bags. Working as a traveling dialysis nurse could be the ticket to great travel and higher salaries.
Just ask the hundreds of thousands of patients who receive dialysis every day. They’ll tell you what a difference these nurses make in their lives. Patients who have renal failure face a long list of challenges. Most have multiple comorbidities and a complicated healthcare life. Being able to count on a nurse who knows them well, and knows what she’s doing, makes dealing with dialysis much easier.
Dialysis nurses can work in a variety of settings, and requires extensive expertise. Since these patients are often medically unstable, or can become so in a heartbeat, dialysis nurses (aka renal or nephrology nurses) need a solid foundation in both nursing and dialysis knowledge. They need to be able to think critically and work rapidly in a crisis.
Normally, patients’ kidneys filter off most of the impurities and waste in the human body but when the kidneys are damaged, patients must survive via dialysis. As mentioned, there are two types of dialysis which include:
Patients can receive dialysis in many settings which include:
Of interest, some cruise ship companies offer dialysis to stable traveling patients.
What are the pros and cons? That depends on your definition for each, and what you’re looking for in your career.
Because dialysis nurses can spend a lot of time with their patients, if you enjoy knowing your patients, and want a predictable schedule, then a clinic setting is a pro. Patients see their nurses on a regular basis, usually three times a week. Often it’s the same day, the same time, and the same nurse.
If you’re up for a challenge and willing to sleep with your phone, the acute dialysis unit is a good option. Patients are sicker and emergencies can be more frequent. Dialysis nurses usually have years of prior dialysis experience, and some have critical care backgrounds as well.
And then there’s providing dialysis to patients in their home. It’s a pro if you enjoy autonomy. The hidden con is that the cozy setting with brewing coffee is still hemodialysis.
Though formal training programs are available, many dialysis employers provide their own training. Some even hire new graduates and train nurses to be experts in dialysis. Basic nursing skills and knowledge are used constantly. Rapid assessments and interventions are a must.
Specialty nursing usually means more money. Currently, the national average for dialysis nurse salaries is $71,000. Since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a faster than average rate of nursing job growth at 26% over the next decade, and the Centers for Disease Control reports that 1 in 10 American adults have some level of chronic kidney disease, dialysis nurses will remain a hot commodity.
If you’d like to learn more about becoming a dialysis nurse, the American Nephrology Nurses’ Association (ANNA) is a great place to start. The ANNA brochure provides a complete, yet concise overview of this specialty organization.
Admire a renowned healthcare institution? You could work there. Daydream over vacation destinations? You could live there. Drool over a higher salary? You could thrive there. If you’re one of the aforementioned dialysis nursing rock stars looking to climb out of your rut, traveling can be a great opportunity. With at least a year of experience under your belt, you’re among the eligible elite who have jobs just waiting for them.
Since traveling nurses make great money, get to see so many parts of the country, and work with great people, they get to experience the many benefits of travel nursing that just don’t exist by staying in one spot. Each traveling contract varies according to the length of the assignment, specialty area, employer, etc. Often, free housing and benefits are included – key points to remember when you’re looking at the dollar amount you’ll be depositing in the bank.
If you’re not already, you might want to consider becoming a Certified Dialysis Nurse (CDN). Those initials behind your name provide instant proof of your expertise, helping you secure prime traveling gigs.
Read what others have asked, do some research, and find out about available jobs. Even if you decide that now’s not the time, it might be exactly what a friend is looking for – and we all love the friends who drop golden nuggets in our laps. Make this year better and check it out. You won’t be obligated to anyone but yourself. And you definitely deserve the happiness that might be just down the road.
By Sue Montgomery, RN, BSN
Sue Montgomery, RN, BSN is a freelance healthcare writer and professional copywriter. In her 30 years as a registered nurse, Sue has held roles from staff nurse to administrator in critical care, hospice and the health insurance industry.