Dialysis patient care technicians work in the larger healthcare industry which is one of the fastest growing industries in the country. Practitioners focused on patient care interact with people requiring treatment throughout their workday. They are in a unique position in that their job duties require a highly level of customer service and sensitivity with distinct technical skills.
Patients receiving treatments from dialysis patient care technicians are often experiencing severe kidney issues. This could be related to a disease, such as diabetes, or organ failure associated with another condition. When kidney function is diminished, dialysis cleaners the system of waste products that the kidneys can no longer manage. Often, dialysis is required until a kidney transplant is available or for the rest of the patient’s life. Emergency dialysis can also be necessary in acute cases.
Working in the dialysis center means you are providing a life-giving service to those in need. In cases where patients receive repeated treatments, care technicians have the opportunity to get to know the patients and may even form a bond.
The majority of dialysis patient care technician programs do not require any prerequisites beyond obtaining your high school diploma, or its equivalent, and being at least 18 years of age. Depending on the state in which you intend to work, there may be additional restrictions based on any issues presented in a background check. To better prepare yourself for pursuing this career, you can choose to focus on specific educational areas while in high school. For example, taking additional classes in the areas of biology, anatomy, and physiology can make future classwork easier as your will already have an introductory understanding of a variety of associated concepts. Additional focus in math and strong command of the English language will also ease your transition into college-level courses.
Customer service and communication skills are critical to providing patient care in any environment. Additional sensitivity may be required when managing the care of patients experiencing chronic renal issues. Patient care positions can be physically demanding by nature. You may have to adjust patients to during the course of treatment and must handle large packages containing medical supplies. Larger pieces of medical equipment can also be challenging to move. Positions in this field can also require a notable amount of manual dexterity, especially when it comes to the placement of needles and obtaining blood draws. Other physical requirements can include the ability to sit or stand for extended periods of time, depending on the particular work environment.
To qualify for placement in an appropriate dialysis patient care program, you must first obtain your high school diploma or its equivalent. You may apply to programs prior to graduating, but you may not be able to attend if you do not successfully complete your high school educational requirements.
Class schedules are set by the educational institution to which you are accepted. While daytime courses are regularly available, only some schools may offer night and weekend options to students. Attending classes during these alternate schedules can be especially useful if you need to coordinate your education around other obligations, such as current employment. Some courses may also be available online, but much of the educational experience involves hands-on training which must be completed in a suitable environment. Take the time to review all scheduling options available at any schools of interest so that you can choose an option that best matches your current lifestyle or needs.
The amount of time required to complete your certificate program may vary based on various factors. For example, state-level requirements may necessitate some institutions to include individual courses that may not be required elsewhere. Additionally, your ability to complete coursework at an accelerated pace may allow you to graduate more quickly. In most cases, the dialysis patient care technician program is designed to be completed within a year. Students attending courses entirely on night or weekend schedules may require more time to complete all of the necessary coursework as they may not be able to maintain a full-time class schedule during those hours.
Many colleges offer students the ability to obtain financial aid. If the educational institution you select has financial aid available, you will need to complete additional application materials. For schools that accept federal financial aid, you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to determine your eligibility for specific funding options. This includes access to the Pell Grant as well as federals student loans. Educational institutions also have the option of offering in-house financial aid programs independent of FAFSA results. This can include scholarship or grant opportunities designed specifically for students attending courses at covered campuses. In cases where financial aid awards do not sufficiently cover your course costs, you may be able to obtain private student loans to cover any remaining tuition. The availability of such loans will depend on your eligibility and creditworthiness.
When financial aid is not available, you may need to pay your expenses in full before the beginning of your classes. In some cases, colleges may also offer students various payment plans to help make college more affordable. Every school will have specific deadlines at which payment must be made, so be sure to review your options before your classes are scheduled to begin.
After you have been admitted to the program, your schedule will be finalized, and you will be able to start attending class once the semester or quarter begins. Certificate programs typically offer a focused educational experience, meaning you will spend the majority of your time learning information pertinent to your chosen certification focus. Some general education requirements may also be required based on the standards set by the school.
Classroom learning will provide foundational knowledge regarding employment in the medical field. Courses on various healthcare-related subjects will be covered, including infectious disease management, anatomy and physiology, and professional ethics. You will also be exposed to medical terminology and may be required to complete introductory courses related to math and English. Additional classes cover issues of communication and human relations to help students gain an understanding of how to best work with patient, especially during times of crisis
To supplement classroom learning, additional hands-on training will be required. This gives students the opportunity to practice what they have learned in a real-world simulation. Practical education involves performing select tasks while under the direct supervision of a medical professional and/or instructor. This ensures students have the skills necessary to apply classroom learning to proper patient care techniques. The content of the lab work may vary depending on the school you choose, as well as the regular activities permitted by your state.
To further support students in their pursuit of practical skills, some dialysis patient care technician programs require an externship before you will be allowed to graduate from the program.
Requirements regarding certification are managed at the state level. This means that the process may differ from one state to the next. Before you can be deemed eligible to participate in the exam, minimum educational requirements must be met. Often, only recognized programs will be included when determining an applicant’s eligibility for the exam. Additionally, applicants must be over the age of 18 to qualify.
Certification exams commonly require a written portion. This ensures that candidates have the necessary knowledge to work safely while providing patient care. Usually, tests are multiple choice, and there are time limits in place during the exam. Depending on your state’s standards, a practical exam may also be necessary before certification can be awarded. This requirement allows a professional to certify that the applicant has the required skills necessary to perform the job duties associated with the position. The easiest way to make sure you have the proper knowledge and abilities is to take a recognized course from an educational institution based in the state in which you intend to work. That way, you will be given the best opportunity to learn all of the information required to pass the certification exam.
Just as certification requirements vary by state, so do recertification requirements. However, some standards can be anticipated for most certification programs. Generally, continuing education credits are required to maintain a certification. To meet these requirements, applicants must complete select courses to ensure you are well informed regarding current standards of patient care. It also provides you with an opportunity to learn about any changes to associated laws and regulations at the federal and state level. The number of credits required is determined at the state level and may be adjusted as necessary to ensure all patient care providers are adhering to appropriate standards.
The need for skilled dialysis patient care technicians is expected to increase between 2014 and 2024; the anticipated increase is approximately 16 percent, a pace that is considered much faster than the average for all potential occupations. This is due to the fact that the aging baby boomer population will increase the need for related care. Additionally, the number of younger people entering the workforce is not able to keep pace with the vacancies left by retiring employees. Over time, shortfalls in employment numbers may become more noticeable.
Working as a Dialysis Patient Care Technician
Dialysis patient care technicians perform relatively specialized functions for patients experiencing acute or chronic renal failure. This often includes setting patients up on dialysis machines for treatment, as well as drawing blood for required laboratory tests. In some cases, patient care technicians are also responsible for obtaining vital signs and monitoring patients during treatment. The nature of the work can be physically demanding, which can lead to injury. Not only can you be required to help patients with mobility issues, but your will also have to move cumbersome medical equipment to provide needed treatments. A significant amount of time may be spent standing or sitting, so issues of ergonomics can also be present.
In cases where dialysis patient care technicians work with the same patients who are managing chronic conditions, it can be emotionally challenging if individual patients experience worsening symptoms or ultimately pass away. While this is a risk across the medical profession, those providing regular care to specific individuals may find adjusting to a patient’s change in health more challenging than those who don’t repeatedly work with the same patients. In contrast, watching a frequent patient make a recovery, or hearing they received a donor kidney, may be especially uplifting.
Required dress codes vary depending on the work environment. Many dialysis patient care technicians are allowed to wear medical scrubs while performing their job duties. Additionally, shoes are often chosen for function, and an employer may set requirements in this area. Dialysis patient care technicians can have differing schedules depending on the environment in which they work. Most major hospitals require technicians to be on staff at all times to support emergency needs should they arise. This includes being available on nights, weekends, and holidays. Those working in specialized centers that focus on treating those with chronic renal failure may be able to maintain a more traditional day shift. The majority of dialysis patient care technicians work full-time, though part-time opportunities can also be available through individual employers.
Potential Salary and Benefits
As of 2015, the median annual salary for dialysis patient care technicians reached over $36,000. Since most positions are full-time, most jobs come with a comprehensive benefits package. Traditionally, this can include medical, dental, vision, and prescription insurance, as well as retirement benefits and paid time off. In some cases, educational incentives are also included. These can be used to offset continuing educational expenses or for the pursuit of more advanced training.
Advancement in the field is often related to experience. As you progress through your career, you may be able to move into more senior positions, including those with supervisory duties. Additionally, you can choose to obtain additional professional certificates in different medical treatment areas to increase the number of procedures you may be able to perform. For example, you may opt to become certified as a phlebotomist or EKG technician to expand your employment options.
On the job training may also be available through your employer, giving you the opportunity to explore new areas of interest without having to commit to additional formal education. However, many medical positions require certifications, which may require formal education as a prerequisite. In that regard, training in patient care can provide a sound basis for new pursuits in the medical field. You may choose to focus on lab-oriented opportunities or pursue additional education in other medical fields. Some may decide to attend classes to become Registered Nurses or Licensed Practical Nurses. Others may find it enticing enough to ultimately pursue a medical doctorate. If additional education and certifications are obtained, the potential for higher wages is significant. However, the exact amount that can be earned depends heavily on the final position acquired as well as the work environment chosen.