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Dialysis Technician: Job Duties & Career Info

Dialysis is a medical procedure that acts as an artificial kidney by removing waste from the blood and excess fluids from the body when kidney failure or disease prevents them from do so. Dialysis technicians are responsible for operating the machines that do this and monitoring the patients undergoing treatment. Learn about the training, salary and employment outlook to see if this career is the right one for you.

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Career Definition for a Dialysis Technician

Dialysis technicians, often referred to as patient care technicians (PCTs), follow strict protocols to guarantee safe and effective outcomes for patients undergoing this four-hour procedure. Their most important tasks are to monitor and adjust fluid removal rate according to patient vital signs and to minimize the possibility of infection through proper equipment handling and sterilization.

According to the National Institute of Health, nih.gov, the most common reason for dialysis is end-stage renal disease (ESRD), a condition when kidneys function at less than ten percent of normal, which is most commonly caused by diabetes.

Required Education A high school diploma or equivalent, approved training program and clinical experience are usually required
Job Duties Include monitoring and adjusting fluid removal rate in accordance with vital signs
Median Salary (2015)* $36,788 (dialysis technicians)
Job Outlook (2014-2024)** 18% growth (all medical and clinical laboratory technicians)

Source: *Salary.com and **U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

In most cases, a dialysis technician must have graduated from high school, completed an approved training program and had clinical experience. Many states also require certification. Training opportunities include on-the-job, employer-sponsored and community college programs. An increasing number of employers desire candidates with training from an accredited dialysis technology program. An associate degree in medical technology or nephrology provides education on the science behind dialysis, rather than practical skills alone and will allow dialysis technicians to advance to supervisory positions, according to the National Kidney Foundation, www.kidney.org.

Skills Required

Dialysis technicians are the direct caregivers for those undergoing dialysis, which sometimes occurs as frequently as three times a week for some. In addition to possessing a responsible and detail-oriented nature, technicians need to be able to understand the emotional toll the ongoing process can take on patients.

Career and Economic Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, www.bls.gov, health care and social assistance will generate 3.8 million new jobs between 2014 and 2024. The National Kidney Foundation, www.kidney.org, reports that 26 million Americans have chronic kidney disease and the number of people with diabetes, the leading cause of end-stage renal disease, continues to grow. Currently, the median salary for a dialysis technician is $36,788 in May 2016, according to Salary.com, www.salary.com. All medical and clinical laboratory technicians, which includes dialysis technicians, are expected to enjoy an 18% increase in this field between 2014 and 2024, per the BLS.

Alternate Career Options

Here are some examples of alternative career options:

Registered Nurse

A registered nurse may enter the profession by completing a diploma, associate's or bachelor's degree program. Licensing is also required in all states, for these nurses who provide patient care, in addition to educating patients and the public about health-related matters. They could expect much faster than average employment growth of 16%, from 2014-2024, the BLS predicted. The BLS also revealed the median annual salary of $67,490 for registered nurses in 2015.

Physician Assistant

This career normally requires a master's degree in an accredited program, and all physician assistants must be licensed by their state. Many of these assistants have bachelor's degrees and experience as registered nurses or as other health care professionals. Much faster than average employment growth of 30% was predicted by the BLS, from 2014-2024, and a median annual wage of $98,180 was reported in 2015.

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