Essential Skills for a Dialysis Nurse

Posted in Career Blog

As a dialysis nurse, you will be working with patients whose kidneys do not work normally, and as a result, these patients need dialysis to clean the blood. Aside from your general nursing skills, there are a few other skills that are specific to dialysis that will help you become more successful.

General Nursing Skills

Patients who require dialysis typically come to a clinic or dialysis center to receive their treatments; this usually occurs daily or every other day. Your primary responsibility as a dialysis nurse will be to monitor the patient during treatment, which means that you will need to take vital signs, keep a close watch for infection at the catheter site and provide a safe, relaxing environment for the patient. You will also need to know how to change catheter dressings, insert new catheters, flush catheters after treatment and ensure that the catheter is free from kinks and clogs which can prevent the blood from flowing freely.

Compassion and Empathy
Patients who are undergoing dialysis are often very ill and suffer from a wide range of health conditions. Many of the patients you will work with on a daily basis will be on a waiting list for a kidney transplant; some may not survive this wait. On the same note, dialysis itself causes unpleasant side effects such as extreme fatigue, and patients who are on dialysis are often required to adhere to a strict diet. All of these things combined can cause patients to feel sad, angry, overwhelmed, frustrated and flat out exhausted, so you should be empathetic with the patients and show plenty of compassion at all times. This will make their overall dialysis experience better and may even improve their health.

Knowledge of Machinery

Dialysis machines are essentially filters for the blood. The machine consists of a pump which removes the blood from the patient, filters out the toxins, and then pumps it back into the body after it is cleaned. As a dialysis nurse, you will need to know how to operate, troubleshoot and maintain these machines. There are several varieties of dialysis machines, so you will need to familiarize yourself with all of them in order to be truly knowledgeable. In fact, should one of the machines stop working as it should, you may be responsible for basic repairs.

Observational Skills

Since patients who require dialysis likely have varying medical conditions, you will need keen observational skills so that you can watch for any changes in your patients’ health. You will see the patient much more frequently than his or her other healthcare providers, so you have the ability to pick up on any potential health threats early and perhaps even save your patients’ lives. For example, if a patient you see regularly comes to treatment with a low grade fever, you can check for infection at the catheter site or perhaps an underlying illness. This information should all be documented and relayed to the patient’s renal doctor.

While many of the duties you will perform as a dialysis nurse require general nursing knowledge, the skills listed above are specific to dialysis and treatment. They are necessary in order for you to truly help your patients and be an asset to your employer.

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