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My Story as a Haemodialysis Nurse

Updated: Sep 4, 2020

Dialysis Nursing jobs have been one of the sought-after nursing jobs in the United Kingdom.

What makes it interesting? Want to know what a typical day is for a dialysis nurse?

Read the story of Edric, a haemodialysis nurse, working in one of the renal specialist centres in the UK.

I am Edric, a haemodialysis nurse working in one of the NHS trusts in London. Prior to moving to the UK, I was working in various units from paediatrics to dialysis nursing. When I moved here, I had to study and work in other fields of the healthcare sector but after few years, I was fortunate enough to be given an opportunity to work again in the area that I have grown to love- Dialysis Nursing.

Day in a Life as a Haemodialysis Nurse

Working in dialysis nursing is an exciting challenge- our days can be unpredictable. I am working for the main renal centre or specialist renal centre in West London. Our centre would be the go-to place for patients who would require dialysis &/or renal specialist care. Patients would come from various parts of London, there are some who were transferred from another hospital or rehabilitation to ours for dialysis. We also cater to mobile patients that have medical conditions too complex for the local dialysis satellite units to handle. I am talking about SLE, sickle-cell disease, calciphylaxis and the like.

Our role can vary depending on where we are assigned. We can be deployed to the main acute dialysis unit or one of the four renal inpatient wards.

Working in the main acute dialysis unit can be daunting for some especially considering the volume of patients we cater. We have a total of 24 beds in the main unit and can accommodate as many as 72 patients per day. We are usually allocated with 6 patients per nurse per shift. As a Haemodialysis nurse, it is key that I know how to properly do the assessment. I would assess & monitor level of toxins, fluid status, weight, blood pressure and other results. These would help me determine how urgent the need for the dialysis and the amount of fluid to be removed. As a haemodialysis nurse, I am actively working with the doctors in creating a dialysis care plan. After which, I carry on giving the planned treatment/ medication using the dialysis machines. I also need to do close monitoring of my allocated patients as their situation can change dramatically.

Even with the volume of patients, I enjoy working in the main acute dialysis unit. I have the ability to work independently & support is within our reach – we have available senior sisters-in-charge and renal doctors throughout our shifts.

Aside from being deployed in the Main dialysis unit, I can also be assigned in one of the wards. If I am deployed in the wards, I would dialyse the patients at their bedside- it is good that our trust has special plumbing built in most of the wards. The dialysis machines are connected to a water port which is linked to the main building’s reverse osmosis water system. In the wards, my responsibility is solely focused on the dialysis of the patients. However, unlike being in the main acute unit, I am heavily reliant on doctor’s assessment & individualised prescriptions before I can execute the dialysis care plan. The number of patients that I need to dialyse daily in a ward varies – I had quiet days where I just had 1-2 patients in one shift but I also a had good share of extremely busy days that my feet were just sore with all the walking I had to do.

Working during the time of Pandemic

I must admit -- the past months have been overwhelming and extremely challenging. During the peak of the COVID19 pandemic, we have seen a sudden surge of patients coming into the units. Initially, some of the local satellite units did not have the ability to handle COVID19 patients—these patients had to be transferred to our Trust. Instead of dialysing an average of 6 patients, our numbers doubled. We even had a case where we had to dialyse 17 patients in 1 shift! Aside from the volume, donning and doffing of PPEs also added to the challenge. I had to do the donning and doffing of PPEs every time I transfer from one bay to another. It was a challenge, but safety is paramount.

Slowly, we are seeing that the number of COVID19 patients is decreasing and wards are now converted back to clean wards. Work is gradually returning to its normality. But I can say that we are ready should another wave of COVID 19 patients come to our unit again.

Perks and Career Pathway for a Haemodialysis Nurse

I have always loved dialysis nursing even when I was still in the Philippines. Thus, when I had the opportunity to apply for the same role in the UK, I grabbed it.

Being a haemodialysis nurse gives you the power not just to execute the dialysis plan but also to influence it. We work together with doctors—we, nurses, are not solely reliant on what they will say. Doctors would ask for our inputs—it is not just because of our knowledge of the patient’s history and situation but also because of our technical knowledge on the machines. I can say that we are deemed as one of the “experts/specialists” in this area. This makes me feel empowered in my role as a haemodialysis nurse.

There are different routes for progression for a haemodialysis nurse. You can work your way up to a Nurse-in-charge or a Team Leader (Band 6), then as a Nurse Manager (Band 7). You can also go to other specialist areas such as research or be a home dialysis nurse/home therapy nurse where you can also be trained on how to peritoneal dialysis treatment.

How to be a Haemodialysis nurse?

There are some trusts that are accepting those without renal nursing experience. These trusts have their own local satellite dialysis units and are willing to consider & train nurses coming from other specialisms or units. Working in these satellite units can also pave the way to a role in a specialist centre unit such as ours.

Another pathway you can consider is to work in a renal nursing ward. This can give you the exposure and the training courses on the basics of dialysis.

Being a dialysis nurse is not all about the technical knowledge. You also need to exhibit traits & behaviours for one to be a successful at this job. You need to learn how to think on your feet and be calm under pressure especially considering the working environment is very fast paced.

Attention to detail and being assertive are also key to this role. As nurses, we play a big part in creating dialysis care plans for patients. We are deemed as experts in this field—thus, we have to ensure we understand the details of each patient. If we think that there is a better way/care plan for the patient, then we need to speak up and discuss it with the doctors. Our inputs, as nurses, are equally as important as theirs.

Being a haemodialysis nurse is not at all easy, but as a nurse, it gives me great satisfaction knowing that I am able to help extend the lives of our patients. It’s a great area to specialise in because you can provide a positive impact on a patient’s quality of life. I am Edric. I am a haemodialysis Nurse. I am proud to be one.

About the Writer:

Edric has been working in the UK for over 7 years. He started working as a part time Health care Assistant, whilst finishing his Masters programme in Wales. Edric has worked too in a care home before landing a job in the NHS. Edric spends his free time taking videos/photos with friends & colleagues.

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