What is a Renal Dialysis Technician?

Dee S.

A renal dialysis technician, also called a nephrology technician, works with patients requiring dialysis due to damaged kidneys or kidney disease. She typically is charged with setting up and running the equipment and managing and caring for the patients while they undergo dialysis. Usually, she will report the results of the dialysis to a nurse or medical doctor. Although she can work in a hospital or clinic, she may also travel to a patient’s home to help with an in-home dialysis procedure.

A renal dialysis technician is responsible for setting up and running the equipment for patients while they undergo dialysis treatment.
A renal dialysis technician is responsible for setting up and running the equipment for patients while they undergo dialysis treatment.

Generally, the equipment that the technician uses works by removing the waste from the blood of a person whose kidneys no longer function properly. These machines help people who need hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, treatment from drug abuse, or plasmapheresis. Some of these people require treatment several times each week, every week of their lives.

A renal dialysis technician will check a patient's vital signs and document their progress.
A renal dialysis technician will check a patient's vital signs and document their progress.

During the set up stage of dialysis, a renal dialysis technician will select supplies per her patient’s needs. She may also make solutions for use during the procedure. In addition, she will prepare the equipment for use, including setting alarms and making sure each machine is working properly.

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A dialysis machine.
A dialysis machine.

Once the patient arrives for dialysis, the renal dialysis technician may take the individual’s medical vital signs, such as heart rate and blood pressure. She may also take the person’s temperature and weight. Generally, she will give the patient anesthesia before she inserts the catheter or needle into the patient. Then, she will start the dialysis equipment, according to the directives for that particular person.

As the dialysis equipment is running, the renal dialysis technician will document the person’s progress. She will also record the rate of the patient’s blood flow and the rate that the fluid or blood is removed from the body. In addition, she may monitor the person and give personal care, as needed. She may adjust the rate at which the blood is removed as well. If an emergency situation occurs, such as low blood pressure, a blood clotting issue, or an embolism, she will start emergency care and send for additional medical help.

After the procedure is complete, the renal dialysis technician will take the individual's vital signs again. She may also create a post-procedural report and discuss any concerns with the patient’s doctor or nurse. In addition, she may be responsible for disposing of certain supplies and sanitizing others.

To become a renal dialysis technician, a student first will need to graduate from an accredited program. The programs typically are found at community colleges, technical colleges, and through dialysis clinics and take about a year to complete. Students will attend lectures and gain experience at hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices under the supervision of technician instructors. After the program, many areas require that the renal dialysis technician complete a certification process that may include a test and require several years of supervised experience.

A hemodialysis machine.
A hemodialysis machine.

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