“The demand for dialysis in this country is growing almost faster than providers can keep up with it,” says Lamar Holland, Lead Instructor for BMCC’s new Hemodialysis Tech program, and co-owner of Dialysis4Career, School of Hemodialysis in Hempstead, Long Island.
Why is this happening? “People are making dietary and lifestyle choices that are contributing to a huge health crisis, causing the incidence of diabetes and hypertension to rise dramatically,” says Holland, who has watched the number of people who need dialysis increase “three to four percent a year,” since he entered the field 16 years ago.
“Twenty million people have kidney failure and don’t know they had a problem, because often there are no symptoms,” he added, explaining that kidney disease “moves like molasses,” and often goes undetected until it reaches critical levels.
What is “hemodialysis”?
The kidneys remove waste products from the blood and when they cease to function—a life-threatening condition known as “End Stage Renal Disease”—a person’s only alternatives, Holland explains, are a kidney transplant—“but the waiting list is five years for an adult, and 18 months for a child”—or undergoing a procedure known as “hemodialysis,” three to four times a week.
In hemodialysis, a patient’s blood is drawn out through a tube, pumped through a machine called a “dialyser,” then pumped back into the patient’s bloodstream. Sadly, Holland says, he’s seen a sharp rise in the number of children receiving dialysis in the last several years.
“The fast-food industry spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year, advertising to children,” he points out, citing high intakes in sodium, or salt, “ingested either through fast food, or canned and processed foods,” as being at the center of the problem.
Providing life-saving treatment—and information
At BMCC, there is campus-wide awareness of the link between nutrition and health—especially diabetes and hypertension. The Early Childhood Center has increased outdoor activities for its youngsters and reduced the sugar and fat content in their meals, and the BMCC Health Services Office sponsors annual health fairs, with screenings for cholesterol, diabetes and blood pressure.
Courses on health and nutrition are offered, and the Office of Athletics, Recreation, and Intramural Sports provides activities such as swimming, weight and aerobic training for the BMCC community.
Likewise, in BMCC’s Center for Continuing Education and Workforce Development, focus is placed on wellness and prevention, while students develop useful allied health skills—and the new dialysis tech program is no exception.
“It’s important not only to treat the symptoms of kidney failure, when someone is undergoing dialysis,” says Holland, “but to educate the patient about changes they could make in their lifestyle and nutritional habits, to prevent further harm to their kidneys, or anything that would compromise their treatment.”
In addition, Holland says, in the busy private dialysis clinic he co-owns on Long Island, the staff does outreach “to educate the larger community on how to eat properly to prevent diabetes and hypertension, which lead to chronic kidney disease.”
Start at BMCC, and go straight to the certification exam
In BMCC’s hemodialysis tech training program, students “get the theory plus the technical training,” Holland says. “We also offer some job placement assistance, and those who qualify are placed in an internship at a dialysis facility.”
Using the same Center for Medicare/Medicaid Services-recognized curriculum as in his private practice, he guides BMCC students as they operate an actual dialysis machine. They also focus on the physiology of the kidney, fluid and electrolyte balance, hematologic aspects of infectious disease, the vascular system, blood chemistry and renal transplantation.
This 96-hour program—in the process of being accredited by the American Association for Critical Care Nurses—is designed for registered nurses as well as certified nursing assistants, medical assistants, phlebotomy and other technicians, as well as individuals with GEDs or high school diplomas looking to broaden their skills.
“Unlike in other training programs around the City,” says Holland, “where students leave unqualified to take the national certification test that makes them employable, with BMCC certification they can start working right away, and have 18 months to take their national certification. Or, they can go straight to the exam—which isn’t possible with any other program, anywhere else in the five boroughs.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: For more information, contact Sandra Baez: 212-346-8425.