Career Profile: Renal Nurse (or Dialysis Nurse)

Renal disease is one of the biggest diseases on the rise in America today. End stage kidney disease is expected to quadruple from affecting 500,000 people today to at least 2,000,000 by 2030. Effective kidney-knowledgeable nursing can help to counteract this statistic. Kidney nurses, who specialize in renal conditions, are one of the best guards against increasing numbers of patients in renal failure.

Kidney nurses are known by several titles. Referred to as urology nurses, nephrology nurses, renal nurses and dialysis nurses, these nurse cover any number of conditions, but typically work with dialysis. Dialysis nurses undergo certification in order to use dialysis equipment, which filters urine for patients who's kidneys have stopped functioning correctly.

Salaries average at about $60,000 a year, but can vary depending on a number of factors. Some districts pay as low as the mid $50,000s, and some pay more than $70,000 a year. Certification, Bachelors degrees and experience can lead to even higher salaries. Dialysis nursing is not a common certification, which means that there are many positions open. With low supply and high demand, dialysis nurses have more opportunities for positions than do other nurses.

Regarding education, renal nurses require advanced degrees and training to gain certification. You can start with a online nursing degree from any program, from an Associate degree to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing. Nurses with higher education are generally paid more than those with the minimum amount and are more likely to be hired. Once you complete your schooling, you can study advanced diseases of the kidneys. There are plenty of programs that you could attend in order to get the information you need. Then, take your state's Certified Dialysis Nurse Examination. After you pass, you'll have the certification you need to operate a dialysis machine.

Nurses that have patients that have undergone renal transplant surgery have more responsibilities beyond standard care for post-surgery recovery. Renal nurses working with postoperative patients are chiefly responsible for timely healing. Because steroids slow down the healing process, and sutures need to be left in for three weeks, infection can be a big problem. In order to ensure that no permanent damage has occurred during the healing process, nurses need to be constantly aware of their patient's condition.

Maintaining hydration and electrolyte balance is more important for kidney transplant patients than it is for others, due to the impaired function of the kidneys during this stage. As always, nurses need to tend to the wound and the patient's pain. Many of the medications that the patient will be prescribed following surgery will act as a constipator, so it's important to administer laxatives, stool softeners and enemas to clear the bowels.