10 Pros and Cons of Being a Dialysis Nurse

Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

There are so many different types of specialties that you can pursue as a nurse. One specialty that is sometimes overlooked is the dialysis nurse. I know you probably have many questions regarding this specialty, such as what are the pros and cons of being a dialysis nurse? Rest assured, I will help you out with answering those questions. Below you will find the top 10 pros and cons of being a dialysis nurse. This golden ticket of information will help you decide if this specialty of nursing is right for you.


(The following are the top 10 disadvantages of being a dialysis nurse.)

1. You may find yourself working long hours

As a dialysis nurse, you may find yourself working long hours. This can be in the form of 12 hours shifts or 10 hours shifts if you are not lucky enough to get a job that is 8 hours a day. Having these long shifts will lead to you leaving early for work and not getting home till later in the evening. This can be challenging for some people, especially if you have a family at home.


2. You will be on your feet all day.

One of the top disadvantages of being a dialysis nurse is all the standing and walking that you will be doing daily. As a dialysis nurse, you will find yourself on your feet for most of those long hours you will be working. This will be a bit of a labor-intensive job. So, if you are up for the challenge of a workout at work, feel free to apply.

3. There will not be much variety to your day.

As a dialysis nurse, you will find that your day-to-day activities will pretty much be the same every day. There will be no variety to your day. You will be doing the same thing day after day.

4. Exposed to pathogens.

When working as a dialysis nurse, you will have to access a patient's vasculature system in order to perform dialysis. At any point, you could be exposed to a patient's bodily fluids placing you at risk for being exposed to numerous pathogens. You also should keep in mind that if a patient has a contagious disease, you may be exposed to it.

5. You may have to be on call.

If you happen to work in an acute dialysis center, you will have to be on call at times. This call will include nights, weekends, and holidays. When taking a call, you need to keep in mind that you will still be working your average workweek on top of this.

6. You may experience burnout.

Let’s face it when a patient is receiving dialysis, it is because they may be extremely ill. For some people, facing such ill patients every day may cause burnout over time. Some of these patients may go on to transplant and recover, but unfortunately, some will die. This is something that can take an emotional toll on you, making burnout one of the biggest disadvantages of being a dialysis nurse.

7. You will need to complete nursing school.

The first step in becoming a dialysis nurse is that you will first need to become a nurse. This is accomplished by either completing your associate’s degree in nursing or your bachelor’s degree in nursing. This will require time and money. After you complete your degree, you will need onsite training and experience to be able to call yourself a dialysis nurse.

8. Experience is essential.

So, if you are under the impression that you would be hired into a dialysis setting right after graduation, you are very much mistaken. New graduates are rarely employed in this field. Most institutions will require that you have gained a least 2 years of experience in medical-surgical nursing, preferably in nephrology before even being considered for a dialysis nurse position.

9. Legal responsibility

As a dialysis nurse, you are responsible for the care that you provide to your patients. You are also responsible for the care that you delegate to the dialysis technician. Having this responsibility can set you up for legal implications should an issue arise. As an extra caveat to this, you are also responsible for knowing your scope within your state and what you can and cannot delegate. Each state is different.

10. You may be placed in some ethical dilemmas.

Ethical dilemmas arise in the healthcare environment on a regular basis as with the dilemma of weighing the pros and cons of being a dialysis nurse. Is dialysis always appropriate for a patient? This question has appeared many times in many different ways. Is it ethically right to perform dialysis on certain patients? The outcome of these situations may place you into some emotional turmoil. You may or may not agree with certain decisions that are made regarding a patient’s care. Whether you can withstand an ethical dilemma is a very personal decision that only you will be able to make.


(The following are the top 10 advantages of being a dialysis nurse.)

1. There are so many different settings you can work in.

One of the top pros of being a dialysis nurse is that you can work in a variety of settings. Some of the settings that you could choose from are an outpatient dialysis center, a nursing home, home care, and inpatient units, to name a few. The fact that you have so many settings to choose from means that you will have options if you feel that one is not a good fit for you.

2. You could travel the country.

If you enjoy traveling the country and you also need to work to pay your bills, why not have the best of both worlds. Choosing to pursue a career as a travel dialysis nurse may be something worth thinking about and can become one of the advantages of being a dialysis nurse. Most travel dialysis nursing jobs will require that you have at least a years’ worth of experience, but if you think about it, a year goes by in the blink of an eye.

3. Weekends off sound great

I know we talked about the different settings that you could work in earlier, but one, in particular, will give you the luxury of weekends off. If you work in the world of chronic dialysis, then you will end up having weekends and holidays off. That is not a bad gig.

4. You can become certified.

Certification is just another notch on the belt for those nurses who specialize in a particular area. As a certified dialysis nurse, you are seen as an expert in the field. The main goal of certification in this field is to promote patient safety and improve the quality of care provided to nephrology patients.

5. You will make a pretty good living.

One of the biggest advantages of being a dialysis nurse is the salary you could be earning. One of the things that a dialysis nurse’s salary will depend on is their level of experience. Entry-level dialysis nurses can expect to be making around $65,000 a year. If you have experience as a dialysis nurse, you can expect to earn somewhere about $80,000 a year.

6. There is a positive job growth outlook.

If you are considering a career as a dialysis nurse, you can expect a faster than average career job growth. It is predicted that between 2019 to 2029 that a career as a dialysis nurse is expected to grow 7%, making job growth one of the pros of being a dialysis nurse. This means that you should have little trouble finding employment in this field.

7. Short work week

Although working long hours is clearly not for everybody, if it really does not bother you, this can be a great advantage. If your workday consists of 12 or more hour shifts, you can find yourself working as little as 3-4 days a week. That sounds much better than a 5 day work week.

8. Flexibility

When a person is considering the pros and cons of being a dialysis nurse, you need to think about work-life balance. As a dialysis nurse, you can have a good amount of flexibility when it comes to your work schedule. Working 12 hours shifts or longer can set you up for having some extended time off without using vacation time if you plan your schedule just right. Not only will you have a shorter week, as previously discussed, but you will also be able to plan your everyday life on your days off.

9. You are helping your patients feel their best

As a dialysis nurse, you are performing an essential function of the human body for your patients. When a patient's kidneys are no longer functioning, they become ill-feeling and run down. One of the advantages of being a dialysis nurse is that you can restore your patients to a healthier state and make them feel so much better by cleaning their blood for them. That has to be a great feeling helping your patients.

10. You will foster relationships with your patients.

Many patients who are on dialysis will be coming for treatment multiple times a week. You will develop and foster relationships with these patients and their families. These patients and their families will grow a trusting bond with you. You will be helping to not only physically improve their lives but also emotionally.

The Bottomline

Dialysis nursing is one specialization that you can choose to pursue in the world of nursing, but is it the right career path for you? As with anything in this world, there are pros and cons. So, what are the pros and cons of being a dialysis nurse? Well, I have presented you with the top 10 pros and cons of being a dialysis nurse. There is a lot here to take in and reflect on. What will be the selling point or what will be the deal-breaker? Will, either the pros or the cons outweigh each other for you?

Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.