In 2009, over 390,000 people with kidney failure received dialysis services in 5,600 facilities throughout the United States. In most of these facilities, patients were cared for by dialysis patient care technicians working under the direct supervision of a registered nurse.

Dialysis facilities across the country are seeking trained technicians. But they are in short supply due to a shortage of training programs, according to Pam Elstad, a former dialysis center administrator. As a result, most facilities must provide costly on-the-job training for new employees.

Meeting the need

Elstad, now dean of allied health and nursing at Lake Superior College in Duluth (, decided to remedy the situation. She and her colleagues have created an online program for dialysis patient care technicians. The 16-credit certificate provides students with fundamental theoretical knowledge.

Courses include dialysis issues and trends, kidney function and failure, hemodialysis principles and components of hemodialysis delivery. Students must also complete a nursing assistant course - a requirement that can be met either before admission or during the program.

Students may earn an additional five credits by arranging a clinical internship in their local area. Many, however, find jobs after completing the 16-credit theory certificate. The necessary hands-on clinical training is then provided by the employer.

A foot in the door

Elstad hopes that students from around the country - as well as military personnel serving overseas - will enroll in this online program.

"These are great, very rewarding jobs with good benefits," she says. "The work combines technology and patient care."

A job as a dialysis patient care technician can also be a good first step toward a healthcare career. Many dialysis companies provide educational benefits for employees who want to continue their schooling. For example, many techs go on to become RNs, Elstad says.


Call 218-733-7601 or e-mail for more information.