The job of a dialysis technician is one of massive importance. They hold the lives of their patients in their hands because they are not only responsible for making them comfortable, monitoring them and putting them at ease. They are also responsible for operating certain equipment that helps the kidneys do their job properly so the patient can literally live to see another day. When you think of it this way, the job becomes more important than ever, doesn’t it? I am not telling you this to frighten you or to make you change your mind about your career path, but to drive home just how important it is to understand everything you are taught during dialysis technician school and how important it is to gain the proper experience before you start working with patients who are counting on you. One of the most important aspects of being a well-trained dialysis technician is knowing the equipment you use inside and out. You have to understand how everything works, how to properly care for everything and how to use it for your patients’ best interests.
As a dialysis technician you will be responsible for putting the machine and other equipment together and making sure it is all assembled properly and safely. All equipment must be 100% sterile to ensure there is no cross contamination. They also use charts for recording information, needles, anesthesia, and vital sign equipment (blood pressure cuffs, etc.) Even though each piece of equipment is important in the role it plays, the machine that actually removes the toxins is the most important piece of equipment a dialysis technician will be in contact with. Below you will find an example of a day in the life of a dialysis technician.
The dialysis technician begins their day by preparing their patients for dialysis treatment. The patient’s vital signs are taken and noted in their chart. Once this preliminary work is complete it is time to work directly with the machine. A dialysis machine is basically an artificial kidney which performs most of the same functions that the human kidneys do including cleaning the blood and balancing out the constituents. This important machine is at the core of the technician’s job. During the process, the blood circulates through the dialysis machine which filters and balances the pH levels, the electrolytes and the concentration of fluids before it is returned to the patient’s body. Dialysis machines come in two classes. There are home use machines and clinical machines. As a dialysis technician you will be most familiar with using the clinical units. Once the treatment is over, vitals are taken again and once everything is deemed to be okay, the patient is free to leave until it is time for their next dialysis appointment.
Just saying that you will be using a dialysis machine does not do the process or job justice. You must know how it all works in order to use it properly. There are three specific circuits that you must be aware of while working with a dialysis machine: Extracorporeal Circuit, Dialysate Circuit, and Disinfection Circuit.
The Extracorporeal Circuit:
This first circuit moves the blood from the vein or artery to let a high blood flow move through easily. The pressure must be monitored on the up and downstream from the blood pump. Before blood goes into the dialyzer heparin is put in to help avoid possible clotting. The heparin is put in with a syringe so it goes in at a controlled rate. From there the blood goes into the dialyzer and passes over the surface area to the other side. The pressure is monitored and maintained over the membrane to make sure the right flow goes through the blood. The dialyzer both balances and cleanses the blood and it is then passed into and out of an air trap to take out all air bubbles prior to being returned back to the patient. For the highest amount of effect, you must continuously pump fresh and clean dialysate through the machine over the entire period of the treatment.
This circuit is used to premix the right concentration so it can be used directly. This circuit is more important when used in home dialysis machines.
Once dialysis is complete the machine has to be properly cleaned and totally sterilized. This particular circuit ensures the cleaning saline is pushed through the machine and all its parts in order to remove any and all impurities.
There are many controls on a dialysis machine and in the beginning it may seem overwhelming. However, once you get the hang of things it will be like second nature to you. First of all there is the backlight and display. This area is rather large and uses LCD for the best viewing. Next is the keyboards and touch screens. There will be many keyboard scanners and newer models of dialysis machines often come without keyboards and operate totally with touch screen. This is why continuing education is so important. Things are changing every day and you must be able to keep up with new technologies. All machines will display the patient’s vital signs so you can be aware of their condition at all times and in case of emergencies, the machines can be run off of wireless and Ethernet signals.
Once you learn how to use the machines properly it is all downhill from there. You will be on the path to becoming a successful dialysis technician.