In honor of National Kidney Month, we wanted to give readers a peak into the daily life of nephrology nurses. Of course, especially in nursing, days can be quite different depending on the patients you’re serving or what department you’re working in.
The day in the life of a nephrology nurse can vary greatly. Nephrology nurses are more than just technical experts. There are many areas of knowledge that nephrology nurses provide to their patients other than just the technical aspects of dialysis care. Some of those may include the roles of caregiver, advocate, educator, facilitator, and mentor. They need to have skills that involve teamwork, good assessment skills, therapeutic communication, collaborative skills, documentation skills, attention to detail, and leadership qualities
Nephrology nurses may provide care in a hospital, a physician’s office, a dialysis unit, a nursing home, a prison, or a university. In fact, one of the best aspects of the specialty is the diversity of nephrology nursing roles and settings. Nephrology nurses can also help provide care to patients anywhere along the spectrum of renal disease. Chronic kidney disease (CKD) is listed in stages from 1 to 5, so nurses can work with patients anywhere on that continuum. Nephrology nurses’ responsibilities vary based on the setting. In an outpatient dialysis unit, the nurse is responsible for providing the dialysis therapy as ordered by the physician or nurse practitioner, as well as educating patients about their disease, their diet, their medications, and a host of other areas. If the patient chooses a home dialysis therapy, the nurse is responsible for teaching the patient and his or her family members how to perform that therapy in their home. In an inpatient hospital unit, the nurse is responsible for providing the acute care to help the patient recuperate sufficiently to be discharged home. A transplant coordinator is responsible for educating a patient about transplantation, coordinating a team to perform an evaluation to assess for suitability for transplant, and education and support after the transplant.
In a dialysis unit, a day might begin with arriving to the unit and ensuring safety checks with the water treatment and dialysis machines/equipment were completed. Then to perform patient assessments and documentation. Weighing the patient is important to calculate the goal of fluid removal for the treatment. Then, the nurse can proceed to initiate dialysis treatment. Patients are monitored during their treatments, vital signs are obtained every half hour, and treatment is discontinued when completed. Post-dialysis, it is assured that patients’ vital signs are stable, patients are reweighed, and they are educated on specific topics including compliance before being safely escorted out of the unit.