Dialysis Nurse: In-Demand Specialty for Travel Nursing Jobs
Dialysis nursing is one of the most rewarding, and most challenging, nursing specialties. There are almost 750,000 Americans currently diagnosed with end-stage renal disease, representing nearly 10% of the U.S. population. With that number expected to increase by 5% each year, the need for nurses skilled in medicating, supporting, and monitoring patients on dialysis is growing. At the same time, the United States is anticipating a critical nursing shortage that is felt across all specialty areas.
Because of the unique stresses that dialysis nurses face, travel nurses with high-quality dialysis skills and experience are in particularly high demand: hospitals, dialysis centers, and other healthcare settings rely upon travel nurses to cover short-term healthcare staffing needs — and they provide generous travel nurse salaries as well as the many other benefits that travel nursing offers.
What is a Dialysis Nurse?
Dialysis nurses are registered nurses (RNs) who provide care and support for patients diagnosed with kidney disease. Patients suffering from either acute or chronic renal failure have only two treatment options: kidney transplant or dialysis. Dialysis treatment is a process in which equipment called a hemodialyzer mechanically balances the chemicals in a patient’s blood and removes the waste, salt, and extra water that the body would normally be able to process on its own. Hemodialysis is one of the two types of dialysis available. It usually needs to be completed three times a week and takes about four hours per treatment.
Dialysis equipment can be located in hospitals, transplant centers, and specialized dialysis units, outpatient clinics, in patients’ homes, and in nursing, hospice, and rehabilitation facilities. It can even be found on cruise ships and in resort towns, as the rapidly growing population of patients diagnosed with kidney disease has created a demand for access wherever patients need or want to be. That means that dialysis travel nurses are offered the opportunity to work in all of these settings, and more.
Dialysis RN skills go far beyond the care responsibilities required by the general patient population.
Dialysis nurses need to prime the hemodialyzer and bloodlines and prepare the equipment for each patient, overseeing the treatment from start to finish — including for peritoneal dialysis. They record and monitor patient vital signs, cannulate accesses, administer medications, and remove femoral sheaths, as well as clean and dress both permanent and temporary catheters. They also provide dialysis patients with critical education on how to manage their condition, with particular attention paid to diet, nutrition, and exercise as well as self-medication.
Dialysis nursing offers the unique opportunity to establish relationships with patients.
Because patients have to spend so many hours in dialysis, and are on a regular schedule of treatments, dialysis nurses have a profound exposure to their patients fears, stresses, and anxieties. Improving patients’ quality of life is an important part of their job description, through emotional and mental support as they do in the technical care that they provide.
Dialysis Nurse Education Requirements, Certifications, and Professional Groups
Working in dialysis requires an in-depth understanding of the kidneys and their diseases, as well as of the sophisticated machinery used for patient care. Most dialysis nurses are:
- Registered Nurses who have earned their Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), or
- Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRN) who have earned their Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree and who have pursued special certifications in either dialysis or nephrology.
To become a Certified Dialysis Nurse by the Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission, you must hold a full and unrestricted license as an RN and have completed a minimum of 2,000 hours in nephrology nursing care for patients needing dialysis, as well as twenty contact hours of continuing education in nephrology nursing within two years of submitting the exam application. To be certified as a Nephrology Nurse the requirements increase to a minimum of 3,000 hours, while APRN Nurse Practitioners who wish to be certified as Nephrology Nurse-Nurse Practitioners (CNN-NP) also require at least 2,000 hours practicing in nephrology.
Dialysis nurses often benefit from membership in the American Nephrology Nurses Association, which provides education, advocacy, networking, and science throughout the nephrology nursing spectrum.
Dialysis Nurse Salary and Job Growth Potential
The demand for nurses with dialysis experience is expected to increase in the next several years. This need is due in part to the national nursing shortage and the predicted 15% increase in demand according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics as well as the anticipated increase in the number of patients diagnosed with kidney disease.
Conditions such as diabetes and high blood pressure contribute to the risk for chronic kidney disease, and so does aging. As America’s population grows older, the need for nurses qualified to provide specialized care for patients with acute and chronic kidney disease will continue to grow.
The average national salary for a dialysis nurse is $133,462 per year.
According to Indeed.com, the average national salary for a dialysis nurse is $133,462 per year, with variables based on years and type of experience, job setting and level of education.
There are significant differences in the salaries offered in different areas of the country. Dialysis nurses are also eligble for overtime pay that can boost their income by an average of $12,750 per year
Compensation is often enhanced by employee benefits, which can include health, dental and vision insurance, life, short-term and long-term disability insurance, vacation and sick leave, and matching contributions to a 401K plan.
Top Paying Cities for Dialysis Nurses in 2021
According to Indeed.com, here are the best paying cities for dialysis nurses in 2021:
- New York, NY: $150,351 per year
- Las Vegas, NV: $134,483 per year
- San Antonio, TX: $125,813 per year
- Portland, OR: $101,566 per year
- San Diego, CA: $91,138 per year
The Pros and Cons of Dialysis Nurse Jobs
Pros of Dialysis Nursing
- Ability to establish real connections with patients
- Knowing that you are making a significant difference in your patients’ quality of life
- Ability to work in a wide variety of healthcare settings
- Job security
Cons of Dialysis Nursing
- Long work hours caring for patients who are very ill
- High rate of burnout, as duties are physically and emotionally exhausting
- Depression caused by high number of patients who die
- Staff shortages lead to heavy workloads
Dialysis Travel Nursing Jobs
With the increasing need for dialysis nurses, compounded by nursing staffing shortages, hospitals are increasingly turning to travel nurses to meet medical staffing needs. As a result, RNs with experience as dialysis nurses have their choice of travel assignments.
According to ZipRecruiter, travel nurses make significantly more money than dialysis nurses working in traditional settings, earning an average of $92,734 per year. Travel nurses usually receive an hourly rate along with non-taxable housing stipends, non-taxable per diems, and travel reimbursements, and those who are certified in specialty areas like dialysis command premium pay, regardless of how many years of experience they have. You also have the opportunity to receive signing bonuses and retention bonuses, as well as bonuses for referring other dialysis nurses to the staffing agency you work for.
If you’re a dialysis nurse who is considering travel nursing, the opportunities that await you are endless. So are the benefits. Travel nurses not only earn significantly higher salaries — they also have the opportunity to change their work environments and location with each travel assignment. Whether you opt to move to another type of facility, another part of the country, or even take an exciting opportunity like working as a cruise ship dialysis nurse, travel nursing allows you to explore the country, advance your career, and increase your pay.