Dialysis technicians, sometimes called renal technologists, administer
dialysis treatments to patients suffering from kidney disease. Dialysis is
a technique to clean the blood of patients whose kidneys cannot perform the
function. Technicians operate and calibrate dialysis machines.
These technicians must be equally comfortable with high-tech machines and
patients. They work under the supervision of doctors and with nurses and other
Technical specialist Lee Cauble says there are two distinct tracks that
people can follow as dialysis technicians. One is direct patient care and
the other is as an equipment and facility technician.
Sometimes there is crossover between the two tasks, says Cauble. In some
clinics, dialysis technicians who work with the equipment also do patient
care. Technicians must be prepared to do both.
There are two types of dialysis. Hemodialysis involves removing the patient's
blood and using a machine to filter and clean it. Peritoneal dialysis uses
a solution, injected into the patient, to do the cleansing internally. Dialysis
technicians usually perform both types of treatments.
According to the National Kidney Foundation, dialysis technicians may work
at a hospital or clinic, or in a patient's home using a portable dialysis
machine. Depending upon the severity of the disease, patients may require
treatment as frequently as once a day. While patients once had to be connected
to machines for up to 20 hours in a row, sessions today may be as short as
one hour, thanks to technological advances.
The National Kidney Foundation says dialysis technicians perform a wide
range of roles. Starting before the patient arrives for treatment, the technician
calibrates the dialysis machine and prepares sterile needles and tubing that
will be used to connect the patient to the machine. The technician also tests
Other tasks may include writing reports, ordering supplies, disposing of
medical waste and scheduling patient sessions.
Most technicians work regular hours. However, since some patients need
dialysis on a daily basis, some weekend and evening work is required, especially
for those involved in home visits.
Patients who come into the dialysis clinics for treatment are often very
sick. Getting to know patients and observing the progression of their illnesses
can be emotionally demanding for the technicians.
Renal technologist Denis Morgan says emotional involvement is common with
technicians. They often get to know their patients over many years of repeat
visits to the clinic. "When [patients] first come in, they are sick, but they
look physically OK," he says. "What happens is, over a period of time, as
they remain on dialysis, they somewhat deteriorate over the years."