Functional kidneys efficiently clean blood of harmful toxins. However, when the kidneys begin to malfunction or fail, specialized medical treatment is necessary. A large part of that treatment may include the regular use of a dialysis machine, which effectively cleans the blood when the kidneys can no longer do so. It is the job of the dialysis technician to operate this complex machinery.
Additionally, the technician typically sets up and checks the machine to make certain that it’s working the way it’s supposed to. Technicians may also be responsible for reviewing patient charts before giving the necessary anesthesia and inserting the dialysis machine’s needle into the patient. During the treatment, the technician will check back in with the patient to ensure that everything is going well. At the conclusion of the treatment session, the technician removes the needle from the patient before cleaning and preparing the machine for the next patient.
Becoming a dialysis technician begins with a high school diploma or passing an equivalency examination. Training for the profession begins in earnest at a community college or vocational school. Coursework is completed in the classroom and in the laboratory. Students must also complete clinical training, which is the hands-on portion of the certificate program. After successful completion of the program, graduates must be certified by a national organization and also licensed in the state in which they want to practice.
How Long Does It Take To Become A Dialysis Technician?
Most certificate programs that lead to becoming a dialysis technician require between 12 and 18 months to complete. This time is divided between lectures and lab work.
Prerequisites for being accepted into a dialysis technician certificate program vary from state to state, and even between institutions. Some only require a high school diploma, while others may require that prospective students already have experience working with patients. Usually, any type of work in a medical setting will suffice. People who have worked as an EMT, nursing assistant or medical assistant are usually qualified.
Becoming a dialysis technician means becoming very familiar with the dialysis machine itself. To that end, certificate program students spend a great deal of time reading about and practicing with the machine. However, this is only one component of their education.
Basic chemistry is also covered in the coursework, as technicians must understand electrolytes and how they function in the human body. Moreover, they must study the pathology of renal failure and understand the physiology of the kidneys and their function. Students also spend time analyzing and interpreting test results in the laboratory. A dialysis technician works closely with patients, so some class time may be spent in communications as well as covering how to assess a patient’s condition and helping them to address nutritional and emotional needs.
Most certificate programs include an internship component in which the student must work at a patient care facility. These are valuable opportunities for hands on training, and successful completion of this component is frequently necessary to qualify for graduation.
National certification is nearly always required before becoming a dialysis technician. Each state sets its own requirements for becoming a dialysis technician. Accordingly, it’s important to check the requirements before entering a training program to make certain that the certificate earned is appropriate for the state of employment. Most often, the state’s board of nursing administrates the licensure of dialysis technicians, and they are a reliable resource for discovering what is required of dialysis technicians.
National certification testing is usually provided by either the Board of Nephrology Examiners Nursing and Technology, or BONENT, or the National Nephrology Certification Organization. Testing by BONENT must be completed within a three hour time window and features more than 100 multiple choice questions. Certification tests are given via paper and pencil or computer, depending upon the testing location. Recertification is required at four year intervals. Testing by the National Nephrology Certification Organization, or NNCO, is always conducted via computer at a site of the Professional Testing Corporation. Recertification through the NNCO is possible through the completion of continuing education credits.
After becoming certified through BONENT or the NNCO, the dialysis technician must complete any other steps required by their state. This may include filling out an application, providing copies of certificates and paying a fee. Usually, applicants must also pass a criminal background check and may be asked to submit fingerprints. Some states may require that technicians renew their license on a periodic basis.