Smiling Hemodialysis nurse

New hemodialysis department seeks RNs, CNAs

New Hemodialysis Department> Apply now for open RN, CNA positions

Low patient ratios. More time for getting to know your patients and provide them with the greatest care. Opportunity to serve their emotional needs, as well as their physical ones. The chance to educate each patient so they fully understand what’s happening and why.

“That’s why 99% of us got into nursing. We want to make a difference,” said Tracy Reisdorf, RN, MSN, patient care manager of the Nephrology Unit at OSF HealthCare Saint Francis Medical Center in Peoria.

On February 1, Tracy will become patient care manager of Dialysis Services, as OSF Saint Francis opens its new Hemodialysis Department. The new department will provide the type of opportunities mentioned above for nurses and certified nursing assistants (CNA), in addition to the same level of outstanding patient care available throughout OSF HealthCare.

More time to know patients

Six days a week, inpatients at OSF Saint Francis report for dialysis treatments in shifts, or “runs” – one run in the morning, one in the afternoon.

Hemodialysis patient receiving dialysis treatmentOn each run, which lasts up to four hours, one CNA works directly with two patients. In addition to traditional patient care duties, CNAs in this department will function as hemodialysis technicians.

Each nurse working in the inpatient dialysis suite will oversee four or five CNAs, who are running hemodialysis treatments on patients suffering from acute or chronic kidney failure. The dialysis nurses will have many opportunities to use their analytical, problem-solving and observation skills.

“The nurses and techs have a chance to really get to know the patients. The techs are sitting right there with them during treatment. The nurses also have the ability to spend more time with patients here than in some other units,” Tracy said.

“They both have the opportunity to provide a lot of emotional and spiritual support. Having time to do those things is a real perk in this job.”

Attractive work schedules

Here’s another perk: Because patients on dialysis typically report for treatments during the day in either a Monday-Wednesday-Friday sequence or a Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday, nurses and CNAs in hemodialysis are not scheduled for “on call” shifts. Also, except for the handful of nurses who must be on hand to assure 24/7 support for emergency dialysis, Sundays are free.

“That’s very different from most units,” said Cassie Whitney, RN, clinical educator for the OSF Saint Francis Nephrology Unit. “You also develop a closer relationship with other departments, because patients are coming to you from different areas of the hospital – or you’re going to other floors.”

Some nurses and CNAs also may find hemodialysis appealing because it requires a specialized skill set, training is on the job and opportunities exist for career advancement.

Requirements and responsibilities

The nurses who join the new department will be trained in hemodialysis, peritoneal dialysis, continuous renal replacement therapy, plasmapheresis and leukapheresis. Every day for the dialysis nurses at OSF Saint Francis will be different, as they provide those therapies in the dialysis suite, on inpatient units at all levels of care or in the emergency department.

Dialysis nurses educate the patients regarding dialysis treatment options and kidney disease management. They ensure the equipment is set up correctly, provide pre- and post-physical assessments of patients, monitor patients to identify adverse reactions or changes in condition and notify the appropriate provider of any problems that occur during treatments.

Hemodialysis patients receiving care

Nurses focus on patient assessment, pain management and providing the safe and quality care the patients receive in their hospital room. The nurses who cover overnight and Sunday shifts provide support for the dialysis nurses in the Emergency Department and intensive care units.

Licensed RNs must have active CPR certification. Techs must have active CNA and CPR certifications, and they’re required to become certified as a dialysis technician within 18 months of joining the department.

Hemodialysis is one place CNAs have the opportunity to advance their skills on the job, without pursuing more formal education, Tracy said.

CNAs begin each run by checking the order for each patient, programming the dialysis machine and preparing the treatment station. When the patient arrives, the CNA initiates the treatment, monitors vital signs, reports abnormalities to the nurse and provides basic care, from changing dressings to assisting with toileting and eating as necessary. When treatment is finished, the CNA disconnects the patient and provides a full report to the supervising nurse.

Details and resilience

In addition to required certifications, it’s important for dialysis nurses and CNAs to be detail-oriented. Dialysis treatment carries a risk of bloodstream infections, so following procedures to the letter is critical.

Tracy and Cassie also agreed dialysis nurses and CNAs need to be resilient.

“The dialysis process is so taxing for the patient, physically, emotionally and spiritually,” Tracy said. “To provide for the patient during their vulnerable time, you need to be resilient and compassionate.”

Last Updated: February 9, 2022

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About Author: Kirk Wessler

After being a writer for OSF HealthCare for three years, Kirk Wessler retired in January 2022. A Peoria native and graduate of Bradley University, Kirk's experience included working for newspapers in Missouri, Texas and the Peoria Journal Star.

Kirk and his wife, Mary Frances, have five sons, four daughters-in-law and nine grandchildren. Kirk plans to spend his retirement on the golf course, mastering the guitar and traveling.

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Categories: Working at OSF