Renal Career Fact Sheet - Dialysis Technician

Job Description and Role

(Last update Dec 2010)

Background:

In 1990 the National Kidney Foundation (NKF) appointed a Task Force to review public policy options and make recommendations concerning job descriptions for dialysis technicians. In 1992, the Task Force completed their work and as a result, produced a patient care technician role description outline that defined a person who performs safe, effective, and adequate hemodialysis treatments.

The elements of the job description and training outline are meant to supply basic skills and knowledge to people who provide dialysis treatment as part of a team.

On April 15, 2008, the Conditions for Coverage established by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) were published. Mandatory certification of dialysis technicians providing direct patient care was included in the published regulation. Individuals whose role does not include direct patient care or who do not participate in setting up the dialysis machine for treatment were not included in the regulation. Certification is obtained from a state or national certification program that is approved by and follows CMS criteria.

Role Description:

Dialysis technicians function in multiple roles, which include dialyzer reprocessing, equipment maintenance and repair, water treatment monitoring, participation in quality improvement, vascular access monitoring and direct patient care.

Certified hemodialysis technicians are the primary direct care giver for patients undergoing dialysis treatments. They work closely with, and under the direct supervision of, registered nurses as an important member of the patient care team. Through primarily on the job training, a certified hemodialysis technician must learn and understand the scientific principles of dialysis, the process of the dialysis treatment, and how to respond to the physical and emotional needs of people undergoing dialysis treatments.

Qualifications:

  • High school diploma or equivalency
  • Successful achievement of certification within 18 months of hire

Experience:

Courses in basic sciences; previous health care experience (such as Certified Nurse's Aide or medical technician/technologist)

Educational and Training Opportunities:

Training opportunities may include on-the-job training, employer-sponsored training programs, or vocational schools/community college programs.

Certification in nephrology technology is offered to those technicians/technologists meeting the necessary requirements to sit for the exam. For more information on organizations offering certification click on the following links:

Work Setting:

Dialysis technicians are employed in dialysis facilities located in hospitals and out-patient facilities, as well as home dialysis programs or industry.

Reporting Relationship:

In most dialysis facilities, the certified hemodialysis technician is the staff person who is primarily responsible for performing the actual dialysis treatment, while the nurse is responsible for the overall care of the patient. The technician works under direct supervision of the registered nurse, who is responsible for making decisions and providing guidance any time the treatment varies from normal parameters or the patient's condition becomes unstable.

Duties/Tasks:

The list below is general, and may vary based on different state laws and facility policies.

  • Assembles necessary supplies
  • Prepares dialysate according to established procedures and the dialysis prescription
  • Assembles and prepares the dialysis extracorporeal circuit according to protocol and dialysis prescription.
  • Verifies absence of residual sterilants.
  • Tests monitors and machine functions, including alarms, conductivity and temperature. Sets monitors and alarms according to unit and manufacturer protocols.
  • Obtains and documents pre-dialysis vital signs, weight, and temperature.
  • Inspects a patient's dialysis access. Administers local anesthesia, inserts needles, and initiates dialysis according to unit protocol and patient prescription.
  • Documents treatment parameters and communicates patient condition and issues to Registered Nurse.
  • Administers anticoagulant according to unit protocols and prescription.
  • Measures and adjusts blood flow rates according to established protocols and prescription.
  • Calculates and adjusts fluid removal rates according to established protocols and prescription.
  • Monitors patients and equipment, responds to alarms, and readjusts treatment parameters as defined by established protocols and individual patient requirements.
  • Changes fluid removal rate and patient position, and administers replacement saline as directed by the registered nurse, physician order, or unit protocol.
  • Responds appropriately to dialysis-related emergencies such as hypotensive episodes, needle displacement or infiltration, clotting episodes, blood leaks, air emboli, etc. Initiates cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) in the event of a cardiac arrest.
  • Discontinues dialysis and establishes hemostasis following unit protocol. Inspects, cleans, and dresses access according to unit protocol.
  • Obtains and records post-dialysis vital signs, temperature, and weight.
  • Discards dialysis supplies and sanitizes equipment according to manufacturer and unit protocol.
  • Communicates emotional, medical, psychosocial, and nutritional concerns to the registered nurse.
  • Maintains professional conduct, good communication skills, and confidentiality in the care of patients. Participates in the multidisciplinary process.
  • Collaborates with the registered nurse in identifying and meeting patient education goals.

What is The National Kidney Foundation and how does it help?

The National Kidney Foundation, a major voluntary health organization, is dedicated to preventing kidney and urinary tract diseases, improving the health and well-being of individuals and families affected by these diseases, and increase the availability of all organs for transplantation.

Through our offices nationwide, the NKF provides vital patient and community services, conducts extensive public and professional education, advocates for patients through legislative action and supports kidney research to identify new treatments.

The NKF relies on individual and corporate donations, business partnerships, foundation and government grants and revenue from special events. More than 79 cents of each dollar donated to NKF goes directly to support its programs and services. Click here to see your donation dollar at work.

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