Big changes could be headed to dialysis treatment centers near you, and that means big changes for the nurses who work there.
The field of nephrology tends to be a bright one for many nurses. For starters, the demand for nurses nationwide is high, but in this field, it’s especially high—with a 19% job growth expected through the year 2020. And while the job requires some additional certification and training, the payoff is high.
Many dialysis nurses enjoy “normal” work hours (since patients schedule dialysis during business hours and not overnight), and the nature of the job allows nurses to develop real relationships with their repeat patients—allowing that natural compassion and kindness to really shine.
“I highly encourage nurses who are looking for a job shift to consider dialysis because of the relationship factor,” says Elaine DeVoe, RN . “Patients bring a lot of issues with them, and you deal with the patient on a personal level. You treat the patient physically, mentally and sometimes spiritually.”
Location is also flexible for dialysis nurses. Some may work from hospitals, others from privately owned dialysis centers, while others may provide dialysis services to patients in the patient’s own homes.
But big changes could be ahead for the world of dialysis, and the catalyst is an electronic device about the size of a coffee cup.
This year (2018), an organization called The Kidney Project plans to begin human trials with the first artificial kidney, the Hemofilter, a surgically implanted device that would eliminate the need for a patient to undergo dialysis. This testing stage is a long time coming, as the Kidney Project hoped trials would begin early last year but funding and approval delays held them back.
“When we said clinical trials would begin in 2017, that was our most favorable scenario at the time,” according to the Kidney Project website. “Our projected timeline has always been dependent on obtaining the required funding, and not encountering unanticipated scientific hurdles. We finally raised sufficient money to complete preclinical trials for the Hemofilter just earlier this year. We are now working as fast as we can to complete the preclinical work and have started fundraising specifically for the clinical trials. As such, we have had to adjust our clinical trial timeline accordingly.”
Once approved and successfully tested, however, the Hemofilter could mean enormous changes for patients. The intrusive need for regular dialysis would disappear, as would traditional dialysis side effects (low blood pressure, nausea, cramping, and disorientation).
Patients are understandably excited. One patient, Tamara Clark, writes on the Kidney Project Facebook page “I have been on dialysis for 8 years now. I am so excited about implantable kidneys! This is the greatest advancement ever! I would love to be a test subject. At this point of my life I just can’t wait for them to be on the market. The chance to live dialysis free is enthralling.”
But even after the Hemofilter and other similar technologies hit the market, the need for dialysis nurses will remain. Not all patients will be able to afford the device, many won’t want to risk the surgery, and others may not be healthy enough to undergo the procedure. Others may just prefer the “usual way”. Whatever the reason, the need for hard-working, compassionate dialysis nurses shows no sign of waning any time soon.
“It’s rewarding to know the care you provide is literally life-saving,” says Joanna Rengstorf, RN. “When patients share stories about milestones and celebrations they were able to participate in, it is rewarding to know they are alive for those moments because of the dedication of those in my profession.”
If you’re interested in beginning your career in nursing, contact Unitek College today for more information.