The Job of a Dialysis Nurse (Nephrology)

A dialysis nurse is also known as a nephrology nurse, urology nurse, or renal nurse, all of who fall under the category of nephrology nursing. Nephrology is the study of the kidneys, and concerns diagnosing and treating kidney diseases. It is a branch of internal medicine. Dialysis is used on people with kidney failure and acts as a functioning artificial replacement for the lost kidney. A dialysis nurse is one who operates dialysis equipment, a process in which you try to filter waste out of kidneys that are no longer functioning properly on their own. There are five known stages of kidney diseases and dialysis is usually not needed until the final fifth stage. Unfortunately, kidney problems can be fatal and that’s one reason why there is such a high demand for dialysis nurses.

Categories of Dialysis Nursing

There are 3 main categories used in describing dialysis nursing occupations.

  • Permanent Nurse: A permanent dialysis nurse is one who is stationed at a renal facility and most likely stays at that facility for several years. This is nice for nurses who like routine and to always be somewhere familiar. You will often have the same patients for a long while and can develop relationships with them and provide more personalized care.
  • Travel Nurse: A traveling dialysis nurse will travel between different facilities and institutions after just short stays in each location. The advantages to being a traveling nurse is that you gain valuable experience and a wider skills set by being in different places with different equipment. The salary is usually much more competitive.
  • Acute Dialysis Nurse: This type of nursing is considered a specialty within the nephrology nurse practice. These individuals are highly trained and educated nurses who care for patients after their kidneys have completely failed to work on their own. For this reason they need to be proficient in CPR as well as performing IV work.

Education and Salary

A dialysis nurse is required to obtain at least an associate’s degree in nursing which usually takes two years to complete or a nursing diploma, which can take three years to complete. If you wanted to specialize and be an acute dialysis nurse then you will need the four year degree which is a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). All graduates must then pass a state nurse certification exam called a CDN. One can also choose to become even more specialized and reach the master’s or doctorate levels, as well as passing specific board exams related to dialysis. Obviously, being a dialysis nurse will require that you study many different things related to kidneys and the diseases that have an effect on them, like diabetes.

It is important to note that education is not what will necessarily make you a successful dialysis nurse. You must have great communication skills and be good at dealing with people. You will spend much of your time with patients who are in severe pain or discomfort and you will need to be strong for them and help them through a difficult time by encouraging them, no matter how they might act toward you.

An expected salary of a dialysis nurse is approximately $45,000 a year depending on which state you live in and to what level you have been educated. If going for the specialty in acute dialysis nursing, you could earn up to $65,000 annually.

Dialysis Nurse Practice

As mentioned, the demand of dialysis nurses is quite high so once you have completed all the necessary education and licenses it will most likely be easy for you to find a job. Some places even source out nurses in their final year of study. The two most common places to work is either in a hospital or renal facility but some dialysis nurses have been known to visit people’s homes or work in hospice as well.


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