With hospital space at a premium, more and more dialysis centers are being built as out patient facilities in strip malls, professional buildings near local hospitals, and even an occasional old bank building, gone are the days of basement dialysis centers, down the hall from the hospital morgue. In California, the majority of dialysis nurses and technicians work three, twelve hour shifts each week, for example Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.
During a shift, each technician will care for 4-6 patients at a time, with three shifts of patients each workday. Patient shift turnovers last 1.5-2 hours and are busy times in the facility. Once all the patients treatments have started, the staff monitor their vital signs, and equipment until it is time to return the patients blood and begin again with the next shift of patients. Nurses on the other hand spend their day assessing patients, administering medications, coordinating care, communicating with physicians, and monitoring the technicians work. Each nurse will supervise 2-3 technicians providing care to 10-12 patients each patient shift.
The work is rewarding, long term relationships exist between dialysis patients and the staff who provide care for them in the dialysis center. Over time, the dialysis staff help patients and their families understand their disease process, the renal diet and routine medication requirements. We celebrate their success and help them cope with losses. I have to say there have been many memorable days for me as a working dialysis nurse over the years, but hands down the best days were the ones when we “got the call” that one of our patients had been transplanted. When I look back, all those years ago, when I was a young nurse receiving my first pay check, my first thought was, wow! I can’t believe they are going to pay me to do such rewarding work. If I hadn’t been so poor, I probably would have framed that first check. I believe there is a common thread between healthcare workers, we are caretakers by nature and have a real need to care for others. Isn’t it marvelous to be rewarded in so many ways for doing something that makes us feel good inside.