Few allied health professions have experienced as much growth over the past thirty years as that of the dialysis technician career path. Individuals who work in this specialty are unlicensed in most states and are typically tasked with performing routine activities associated with the administration and monitoring of dialysis therapy. This invasive medical procedure is used to replace some of the filtration capacity that is lost when the kidneys become damaged. In order for end stage renal failure patients to survive, they must have their blood cleaned multiple times each week for periods of up to four hours. With the rising prevalence of diseases such as diabetes, obesity, and hypertension, demand for qualified technicians who can help manage patients has increased dramatically and has created many new job opportunities.
While technicians working in the dialysis specialty are not required to become licensed, there are a few federal guidelines that establish formal competency standards for the profession. Since the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) pay for around 80% of the costs associated with treatment, they are the agencies that develop and enforce the most legislation affecting technicians. Facilities that are currently receiving federal reimbursement must ensure that all technicians have a high school diploma or equivalent, have completed a training program, and become certified within 18 months of hire. States that have adopted their own requirements may have more stringent expectations.
There are several options available when it comes to acquiring the knowledge and skills needed to be a successful technician and comply with governmental regulations. Although there are many colleges and universities across the United States that offer Associates degrees and certificate programs for dialysis technicians, most employers offer their own in-house training program that is designed to prepare new employees for the position. Those who live near an independent educational institution that administers such a program are encouraged to communicate directly with potential employers to make sure that the credentials will be accepted prior to enrolling in any classes. Learning about employer standards before attempting to complete educational requirements is an important step in streamlining the career entry process and can save a lot of time, effort, and money.
Another important consideration for selecting a dialysis technician school is the certification option that the individual intends to pursue. Organizations such as Nephrology Nursing Certification Commission (NNCC) and National Nephrology Certification Organizations (NNCO) generally require that applicants do have a high school level education and complete a training program, but they tend not to have specific expectations for which training program is selected. The Board of Nephrology Examiners Nursing and Technology (BONENT), on the other hand, has a list of approved programs that they have reviewed and are willing to accept as satisfactory for exam eligibility. While they might allow technicians from other programs to sit for an exam, it is important to contact them to make sure this is the case.
Organizations such as the National Association of Nephrology Technicians, National Kidney Foundation, American Kidney Fund, and American Nephrology Nurses Association also offer educational options that are designed for self-guided study and that serve to complement formal training through a local facility or educational institution. Many technicians choose to use the Kidney School and Core Curriculum for the Dialysis Technicians to prepare for certification and to improve their overall competence. Individuals are encouraged to take every opportunity possible to expand their credentials and expertise because it can have a dramatic impact on the dialysis technician salary and can increase the number of employment options available over the long haul.