Pros and Cons of Being a Dialysis Nurse

Dialysis nursing is one of the most in-demand career paths among nurses nowadays. It’s also considered as one of the highest paying specializations with an hourly rate of $32.72 (as of March 2020). It is a promising career for nurses who want to concentrate in a specialized field of nursing.

Dialysis nursing is a nursing subspecialty under the field of nephrology nursing. By becoming a dialysis nurse, you will be skilled in handling patients with acute and chronic kidney diseases.

Additional training is required in order to be certified in providing peritoneal and hemodialysis treatments. Patients undergoing dialysis need special nursing care that is different from patient handling in wards so obtaining continuing education units is important.

In this field of dialysis nursing, you will need to take care of patients with chronic kidney diseases that require 2-3x hemodialysis treatments per week.

In this field of dialysis nursing, you will need to take care of patients with acute kidney diseases that require immediate or emergent hemodialysis treatments.

This is usually an add-on task for acute dialysis facilities, but it is completely different from hemodialysis treatments. You need to set-up by afternoon or evening and remove the machine by morning the next day.

Pros and Cons of Dialysis Nursing: The Benefits
  • You can travel. …
  • There are a variety of dialysis settings. …
  • Experience personal connections with patients. …
  • You’ll have to work long hours. …
  • Your patients could be very sick. …
  • Burnout is high in dialysis.

Pros and Cons of Being a Dialysis Nurse

Pros of being a dialysis nurse

Some of the benefits of being a dialysis nurse include:


Dialysis nurses play a crucial role in maintaining their patients wellbeing. This may offer a sense of purpose and give meaning to your work. Additionally, because many dialysis nurses see the same patients on a regular basis, there is an opportunity to build lasting relationships with them. For example, you may meet a patient right after their diagnosis, and after years of working with them twice each week, you observe them becoming comfortable with their condition and confident in managing it. Establishing positive connections with patients might make your shifts more pleasant and gratifying.

Variety of settings

Dialysis nurses can work in a variety of environments throughout the healthcare industry. Many work in dialysis clinics. Others work in hospitals and Intensive Care Units (ICUs), typically focusing on acute kidney injuries. Some visit the patients homes to provide their services, especially in circumstances where the patient cannot travel to a facility due to distance or physical ability. Nursing homes and hospice facilities also typically employ dialysis nurses to provide care to live-in patients.

Travel opportunities

Dialysis is an in-demand specialization, and there is a need for experienced dialysis nurses everywhere. After a year of experience, you can apply to become a travel nurse. Pay is typically higher for travel nurses, and you might be eligible for stipends, reimbursements, and per diems in addition to your base pay. Plus, travel nursing is a productive way to see the country while growing your career, meeting new people, and gaining experience in a variety of clinics and facilities.

Job security

Fewer workdays

Dialysis nurses often work long shifts, but this means that most work fewer days. For example, you may work three 12-hour shifts in a row, but then you can enjoy four days off. Schedules vary from position to position, but some dialysis nurses have weekends off, too. This offers you extra time to enjoy hobbies, spend time with family, or travel. You can pursue a role that fits your scheduling needs.

High earning potential

Dialysis nurses typically earn upwards of $30 per hour. As you gain experience, your income will likely increase. After several years of experience, you might earn up to $80,000 a year. There are also opportunities to earn even more if you work as a travel nurse, as we discussed.

What is a dialysis nurse?

A dialysis nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who treats patients diagnosed with kidney disease or kidney injuries. They specialize in dialysis, a medical process where a machine regulates blood and removes toxins like salt, water, and waste from a patients body, replicating the functions of a healthy kidney. Patients with kidney disease often rely on dialysis as a primary form of treatment. A dialysis nurse typically administers this treatment to each patient several times per week.

Dialysis nurses typically work in one of three fields:

Cons of being a dialysis nurse

There are several benefits to being a dialysis nurse, but the job has challenges which mean it might not be a good fit for everyone. These can include:

Emotional challenges

The work of a dialysis nurse can be emotionally taxing. Some people experience depression or other mental health issues due to caring for very ill patients. It might be beneficial to keep in touch with your own emotions and implement a plan to take care of your mental health. However, the emotional element of the role can help you develop your skills. The ability to support patients who are going through the challenges of illness can help make you a well-rounded healthcare professional.

Long hours

Unpredictable schedule

The schedule for some dialysis nurses can be difficult to plan for. Many nurses have to be on-call at times. If a dialysis nurse is on-call, they are conditionally off-duty, but the facility might ask them to come in at a moments notice. Because extreme kidney injuries can happen at any hour, a dialysis nurse might be needed with little notice in the middle of the night or early in the morning, especially if they work in emergency units. While it may pose a challenge for planning, you may enjoy the variety in your schedule. Also, many people gain added fulfillment from being able to help in an emergency.

High-stakes work

Heavy workload

The work is demanding, and many facilities and clinics are short-staffed. This can lead to an increased amount of work for you. However, managing a large roster of patients and many responsibilities can position you for promotions and career growth.

Long educational journey

Tips for becoming a dialysis nurse

If you decide to pursue this field of nursing, its helpful to be equipped for your job search. Pursuing educational and certification opportunities can help grow your career. Here are some tips for becoming a dialysis nurse:

Earn a nursing degree

Employers expect dialysis nurses to have a degree in nursing and a nursing license. You have options, so choose a program that suits your needs. You can study in a two-year program to earn an Associates Degree in Nursing (ADN), or you can study in a four-year program to earn a Bachelors Degree in Nursing (BN). After completing your education, you can take the NCLEX test to gain your nursing license.

Consider certification

You can become a certified dialysis nurse (CDN) if youd like. This is a professional certification that assures employers that you are skilled in nephrology, the medical field that focuses on the kidneys. After completing 2,000 to 3,000 hours of work in nephrology, you may be eligible for certification. Not all employers require certification and some offer options for becoming certified on the job, but becoming certified may increase your job prospects or earning potential.

Learn about subfields

Dialysis is prescribed to many different types of patients, all of whom have different needs. There are subfields of dialysis, like pediatric dialysis, which provides care to children with underperforming kidneys, or geriatric dialysis, which provides care to elderly patients. By focusing on a particular group of patients, you can grow your skills and increase your value. This may also make you a strong candidate for roles in unique healthcare environments, like pediatric units of hospitals or nursing homes. Plus, by studying different groups, you may learn what types of caregiving you are most passionate about.


Is it good to be a dialysis nurse?

Dialysis nursing is one of the most in-demand career paths among nurses nowadays. It’s also considered as one of the highest paying specializations with an hourly rate of $32.72 (as of March 2020). It is a promising career for nurses who want to concentrate in a specialized field of nursing.

Is being a dialysis nurse stressful?

Working as a dialysis nurse can be difficult because treating chronically ill patients can lead to increased burnout. Typically, this specialty of nursing is not any more difficult than other nursing specialties.

Is dialysis nursing boring?

Dialysis nurses are exposed to high level of stress. Increasing workload can aggravate stress and cause burnout and exhaustion. Stress and burnout are capable of having a detrimental impact on organizational productivity and pose serious health and safety hazards on the job.

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