Difference Between a Dialysis Nurse & Dialysis Tech

Animated dialysis professional showing how to find a dialysis job

A career in dialysis can be a rewarding experience for many people. If you’re considering going into dialysis, then you likely want to know how to improve your chances to find a dialysis job after graduation. For instance, one common question is what the difference is between a dialysis technician and a dialysis nurse and how it affects your job opportunities. We’ll discuss the differences between dialysis RNs (also known as nephrology nurses) and dialysis techs in this article.

Find a Dialysis Job: What’s the Difference Between a Dialysis Technician & a Dialysis Nurse?

Woman in scrubs trying to find a dialysis job in her field.
You can find a dialysis job as an RN or a dialysis technician.

Before you find a dialysis job, you’ll need to get the right credentials and experience. This means choosing a career path. Some of the most common are becoming a dialysis technician and becoming a dialysis nurse. These are similar, but different careers you might choose if you want to help chronic or acute kidney patients by assisting with their hemodialysis treatments. 

Both dialysis techs and nurses work in facilities that offer dialysis. This can include dialysis centers, hospitals, physician’s offices, and even home healthcare companies. Because chronic kidney patients typically come in for treatments several times a week for hours at a time, both dialysis nurses and technicians get to know their patients. 

Additionally, careers in dialysis often offer shorter, more regular hours and good work-life balance compared to many other healthcare careers, particularly for chronic dialysis care, as dialysis centers usually operate during normal business hours and are by appointment only.

These are some of the similarities between dialysis techs and nurses. Let’s look at some of the key differences between dialysis techs and dialysis nurses:

Dialysis Tech

A dialysis technician is a professional who helps with dialysis treatment. There are many duties involved with this, but usually they set up, sterilize, and maintain dialysis equipment. They also monitor patients for the duration of their dialysis treatment. Once a patient is finished, a tech also usually disconnects them from the machine and sets up the equipment for the next patient. Dialysis technicians are generally supervised by dialysis nurses. 

Becoming a dialysis tech does require some education, but typically less than becoming a dialysis nurse. Dialysis techs usually must complete a dialysis tech program to receive a degree or certification. This usually includes labs and internships to provide you with hands-on experience as well. 

Of course, the requirements from dialysis tech programs and credentialing varies based on the state. However, generally you can complete your program within one to two years. Then, you can find a dialysis job once you have the state required credentials.

The average salary for a dialysis tech is an estimated $57,800. Newer techs will earn less while more experienced techs will usually earn more. Salaries also vary based on your location. For instance, the top five highest paying states for dialysis technicians include:

  • New York
  • Rhode Island
  • Connecticut
  • Oregon
  • California

The dialysis tech job outlook is also quite good, with high expected growth and current demand. This is because there is a shortage of healthcare technicians and an increase in the number of kidney patients that need dialysis. This may be due to the aging population as well as rising health concerns for people in the U.S. like diabetes and obesity that can increase the risk for kidney failure. Therefore, as a dialysis tech it may be quite easy to find a dialysis job that fits your needs and goals.

Dialysis Nurse

Another option if you’re interested in a dialysis career is to become a dialysis nurse. This is different from a dialysis technician. Dialysis nurses usually oversee dialysis techs and act as an intermediary between the doctor and the dialysis patient. They are responsible for performing assessments before and during dialysis. They also help educate patients about their conditions and help patients implement their treatment plans. 

To become a dialysis nurse, you will need to get a nursing degree. In most cases, this is a 4-year college degree. You’ll need to meet the requirements of any other registered nurse, but during your degree you can usually choose to focus on dialysis. You might also gain additional certifications outside of your nursing degree that specialize in dialysis. As a dialysis nurse, you will also need to be licensed by your state by passing the NCLEX exam. 

Because dialysis nurses have more education and different responsibilities than dialysis techs, they usually make a higher salary. For instance, the national average salary for dialysis nurses is $83,554 according to Salary.com. Once again, pay really depends on your location and experience. 

Like with dialysis technicians, the job outlook for dialysis nurses is pretty positive. There is high demand throughout the country and that demand is expected to grow. As such, if you’re planning to become a dialysis nurse, you should be able to find a dialysis job that suits you.

Why Find a Dialysis Job That Lets You Travel?

There are many reasons to become a traveling dialysis technician or nurse. One big benefit is that traveling dialysis professionals often make much higher salaries compared to staff positions. Traveling dialysis technicians and nurses fill in to help with staffing gaps in places that administer dialysis to kidney patients. Depending on the assignment and the professional’s experience, they can make even double what they would in a permanent position. That’s not including the tax-free stipends that many travelers get for things like housing and travel.

Additionally, if you become a traveler, you can go to destinations across the country. As a traveler, you’re in charge of what assignments you take and where you go. So, you can find a  dialysis job in places you’ve always wanted to visit. Many techs and nurses create a destination bucket list and choose assignments based on that list. 

How to Become a Dialysis Traveler?

As a traveling dialysis tech or nurse, you’ll work with healthcare staffing agencies like AHS RenalStat to find assignments that fit your needs. Usually these last 13 weeks, but can be longer or shorter. You’ll work with a recruiter to find the right assignments for you. Our recruiters talk to you about your needs, goals, and wants to help match you with facilities who need your help. 

Before you can find a dialysis job as a traveler, there are a few things you’ll need to do. The first is to get your education and whatever credentials you need in your home state. You’ll also need to get at least two years of job experience as a dialysis tech or nurse. Once you’ve done this, then you can start looking for assignments that fit your needs. Our credentialing specialists are here to help you get the state-specific credentials needed wherever you choose to go for your assignments. 

AHS RenalStat: One of the Top Dialysis Healthcare Staffing Agencies in the Country

If you’re interested in a life of adventure as a dialysis professional, reach out to our team at AHS RenalStat today! We are a healthcare staffing agency that focuses specifically on dialysis staffing. Our team works with dialysis professionals to help them achieve their career goals and have an amazing experience as a traveling dialysis tech or nurse. We understand you and your needs and offer all the support you need. As a top-rated dialysis staffing agency, we know exactly what you need and work hard to create a community to support you. Get started today by browsing our job board or reaching out to a recruiter today!