Julia Jeffers works at the University of Maryland Medical Center, but is employed by a company called Independent Dialysis Foundation. She has been a certified dialysis technician for 18 years. What does your job entail? My current job entails working under the direction and supervision of the hemodialysis RN in an acute dialysis setting. I provide direct patient care to the patient on hemodialysis. My responsibilities include monitoring vital signs, initiating dialysis ... setting up dialysis equipment, troubleshooting dialysis machines, and reporting any changes in patient status to the dialysis RN. What kind of schooling or training did you go through? The training required for a dialysis technician in Maryland is completion of a Maryland Board of Nursing approved CNA DT training program. Dialysis technicians are required to be certified by the Maryland Board Of Nursing as a CNA DT. Dialysis technicians are also required to have national level certification, as well as CPR for health care providers. What inspired you to this career? I was inspired to become a dialysis technician while working in an ICU as a [certified nursing assistant]. I met a dialysis RN who was in the ICU to do a bedside treatment. I asked her many questions and decided to look into the dialysis field as a career. I went for an interview at a dialysis center and was very impressed by how friendly the patients and staff were. I accepted the position and have been in dialysis since. I have worked in both outpatient dialysis units and inpatient hospital units. What do you like best about your job? The best part of my job is that I get to work directly with patients. We spend on average four hours with each patient. I get to help them during the challenging and stressful days of being hospitalized. I get to participate in helping them feel better and educating them on their dialysis. I like being a comfort to patients when they are afraid and do not know what to expect. I love putting a smile on their faces! I also like coming to work and learning something new every day. The teamwork and camaraderie we have as a dialysis team makes me really like my job. What are the challenges? Most of the patients on dialysis are diabetic, have high blood pressure, or both. In the hospital, many patients have other medical problems as well, such as liver failure, cancer, HIV and so on. While working in the hospital, you may have a patient that has several diseases at one time, but you do as much as you can within your scope of practice to make them comfortable and try to ease their mind. It is very difficult when patients die. In dialysis, we get to know our patients because we spend hours with them while treatment is going on. We listen to them talk about their lives, families and feelings. It is very hard when we lose them. In the outpatient dialysis unit when a patient dies it is hard to see the "empty chair" when you are used to seeing that patient three days a week. Salary The average salary for dialysis technicians is $47,000, according to job website Indeed.com.
Barbara Haddock Taylor, Baltimore Sun