Operating the dialysis machine
One of your primary tasks in dialysis technician training (which is also called hemodialysis technician training), is to learn to operate the dialysis machine the patients are using to filter wastes from their blood. This filtering process is what keeps the person with kidney disease alive, so your ability to competently operate this technical piece of equipment is critical to their overall health. You will learn to operate, clean and maintain the dialysis machine along with troubleshooting any problems that might arise.
Monitoring the patient
In addition to operating the dialysis machine, you will also spend a significant amount of time monitoring the patient during dialysis. You will specifically be attending to the patient’s heart rate and blood pressure during dialysis to watch for any warning signs of trouble or abrupt changes in their condition. You will also learn to prepare solutions that will be used to help the patient once they are connected to the dialysis machine. These solutions sterilize the patient’s blood and reduce the risk of infection.
Interacting with patients
Perhaps the most satisfying part of being a dialysis technician is the significant interaction you are able to have with the dialysis patients. People who come for dialysis are in a difficult position: their kidneys are no longer working and they must rely on the dialysis machine to filter their blood. They often feel vulnerable and scared. Since the dialysis process typically takes a couple of hours, on average, this allows you lots of opportunity for dialogue as you operate the dialysis machine and monitor the vital signs of the patient. You can also help to instill hope and encourage patients by showing interest in them and answering their questions.
Many people who have become dialysis technicians find their work very satisfying and enjoyable. They feel they are making a difference in their patient’s lives. If you enjoy people contact and are attentive to details, being a dialysis technician could be an excellent career choice for you.
Prerequisites for dialysis training
All you need to begin your training for becoming a dialysis technician is a high school diploma or GED. It doesn’t hurt to have additional coursework in college courses, especially in science, but this is not a required.
Those who train to become dialysis technicians take one of two paths: academic training or on-the-job training. Some, combine both for a particularly rich training experience.
Academic training begins by finding a dialysis technician program at either a local college or vocational school or enrolling in an online training program. Regardless of whether you attend a local training institution or one that is online, you want to make sure that it has coursework that will adequately prepare you for certification in dialysis work. Obtaining certification upon completion of your training will give you an added credential and also enhance your opportunity for a higher pay scale.
A good starting point for locating a qualified dialysis training program is to contact a regional dialysis center and ask their recommendations for the best training programs. If there is a college or vocational school in your area that offers dialysis training, take the time to visit the facility. See if they have a well-developed program with up-to-date technology. Ask for the names of a few recent graduates from the program so you could contact them for their assessment of the program.
Once you enroll, you can expect the training program to last approximately one year or the equivalent of two semesters. That schedule assumes you are able to take classes full-time. Some programs can be completed in less than one year. Of course, if you must work while you take courses it will typically extend your training.
Though most people become dialysis technicians through formal academic training, some become certified dialysis technicians by learning their skills on the job. You might initially be hired at a dialysis center as a technician-in-training or for another position. If the latter, with time you could be promoted to begin training as a dialysis tech under the supervision of a registered nurse experienced in dialysis work. This on-the-job training includes everything that you would normally be taught in the classroom plus the ongoing mentoring by a professional that has at least several years of experience caring for people with kidney disease. You would typically need at least one year of on-the-job training to be adequately prepared to sit for the certification exam.