In honor of “Nephrology Nurses Week,” September 8-14, 2019, Daily Nurse is highlighting two very special dialysis nurses.
At 25 years old, Jackson, KY resident Bridgette Chandler was living with her husband and raising two young children while enjoying a satisfying career as a nursing tech.
Bridgette’s life changed forever after she rushed to the emergency room with what she thought was a case of the flu. Instead of flu, doctors informed her, she was actually suffering from kidney failure. During the long wait for a transplant she underwent arduous four-hour dialysis treatments three times a week.
Despite finding that dialysis made her “a completely different kind of tired that sleep doesn’t fix,” in her determination to remain actively involved with her young family, Bridgette opted for at-home dialysis at the Fresenius Kidney Care clinic in Kentucky. With her home treatments, Bridgette managed to experience all of the special events that happen in a family, from games and recitals to the hubbub of birthdays and holiday seasons. She remarks, “For me, being able to take part in special moments with my family was most important and that’s why I chose home therapy. It gave me the opportunity to take back some of the control of my health.”
Five years later Bridgette found a donor and had her kidney transplant surgery. Even before the hospital had discharged her, she asked her doctor how long she had to wait before she could start school and become an RN. Now, Bridgette is working alongside her former nurses, treating home dialysis patients at the same clinic that treated her. “Because of my personal experience, my intention had always been to become a nephrology nurse” she says. “I stayed in touch with my nurses and doctors who made such a difference in my life. When a position became available in the clinic with those nurses and doctors, I jumped on it.”
Bridgette’s experience also creates a special bond with her patients: “helping patients find ways to make dialysis work for them has definitely been beneficial. I’ve had so many patients tell me they respected me so much more because I understand what they are going through. Many of my patients have even told me that I give them hope. That is just as important to me as it is to them. That’s why I wanted to be a nurse.”
Anne Diroll was also destined to become a nephrology nurse.
A year after losing her father to a sudden heart attack, 15-year-old Anne was hospitalized for a week after being struck by a car.
During her time in the hospital, unable to walk, and suffering from a “huge hematoma,” she had plenty of time to think and look around. She saw—and deeply admired—the nurses who cared for her, and was inspired by fellow patients stories, learning of “tragedies and hardships in others’ lives that I had never experienced or been aware of at a young age, and [I] thought ‘this is a part of life that needs healing.’”
Anne began her nursing studies almost as soon as she was discharged from the hospital. Initially working as a pulmonary nurse, when she sought a new job, she “didn’t know anything about kidneys, except that they made urine. In my interview for a dialysis nurse position, my interviewer explained that the reason dialysis nurses exist is because [failing] kidneys don’t make urine, so I was able to understand that dialysis is to kidneys as ventilators are to lungs. I got the job and have been a nephrology nurse ever since.”
Today Anne manages a Fresenius Kidney Care clinic in California, overseeing the care of 50 patients.
The American Nephrology Nurses Association (ANNA) launched Nephrology Nurses Week in 2005 to give employers, patients and others the opportunity to thank nephrology nurses for their life-saving work. In addition, ANNA seeks to interest other nurses in the career opportunities available in nephrology.
About 30 million adults in the United States suffer from chronic kidney disease. The nephrology nurses who treat them make a positive difference in the lives of patients and their families every day. Caring for kidney patients requires nurses to be highly skilled, well educated, and motivated, and nephrology nurses cite the variety and challenges of the specialty as fueling their ongoing passion.
For more information nephrology nursing, the Nephrology Nurses Week celebration, and more, visit www.annanurse.org/