Three hundred fifty-nine chronic dialysis patients (85 employed and 274 nonemployed) were surveyed to identify/verify those characteristics which differentiate between employed versus nonemployed status. Education emerged as a significant correlate of employment, as noted by previous investigators, whereas, unlike previous research, neither mode of dialysis, length of time on dialysis, number of comorbid conditions, nor cause of renal failure (eg, diabetes) were associated with employment status. Measures of functional status (MOS SF-20 and Karnofsky) were positively associated with employment. Furthermore, patients' perceptions that their health limited the type and amount of work that they could do were negatively associated with employment. In addition, using a series of de novo items, we found subjects' beliefs about dialysis patients' ability to work to be a "self-fulfilling prophecy" with regard to employment status. That is, patients who themselves believed that dialysis patients should work and had this notion reinforced by significant others were more likely to be employed. Interestingly, 21 percent of unemployed patients reported that they were both able to work and wanted to return to work. Because it is consistently reported that only a small percentage of dialysis patients are employed, targeting the patients who are both willing and able to work for vocational rehabilitation might significantly increase the numbers of employed dialysis patients.