Each nurse’s path to entering the field is unique – no two nurses share the exact string of experiences, influences, or circumstances that first sparked their desire to help patients. For me, an unexpected kidney failure diagnosis as a 25-year-old mother of two quickly determined the career path I would take.
After five years of managing my end-stage renal disease (ESRD) with life-sustaining dialysis treatments, I received a kidney transplant. One year later, I returned to school to become a dialysis nurse to serve others like me who are living with kidney failure.
Long Days and Nights Shape Dialysis Nurse’s Career
I was fortunate to have been accepted to Ohio University’s nursing program in 2014. I remember receiving the tools to immerse myself in all areas of nursing so that students like me had the freedom to find their niche. I was constantly learning and moving forward, and I loved that! But, it wasn’t always easy with anything worth the effort. Many long days and nights – and tears – ultimately shaped my future.
I’ve served as a dialysis nurse for Fresenius Kidney Care for the past four years. I spend my days caring for those who receive home dialysis – from training patients to feel comfortable and confident enough to dialyze on their own or with the help of a trusted caretaker to checking labs and monitoring patients’ vitals three times daily in the clinic.
I recently reached a milestone in my career, leading a local transitional care unit program at my dialysis center. It supports patients with training and education to successfully take their treatment home when they only know the in-center environment. Having the opportunity to combine my passion for nursing and teaching has been an amazing reward.
Favorite Part About Being a Dialysis Nurse
My favorite part of my job is helping patients find ways to make dialysis work.
So often, patients come to the center for the first time because they’re scared or angry at their situation or confused by all the treatment lingo and options. As someone who has experienced their circumstances and emotions firsthand, I am grateful to have dedicated time to sit down with them to discuss their concerns openly and answer their questions.
That also helps me build one-on-one relationships with my patients and gain their trust, which can be a game changer. So many have told me I give them hope, and just hearing that confirms that I chose the right career.
To this day, I can’t imagine doing anything else. Being a nurse is who I am. To those who aspire to have careers in nursing and are still deciding on a specialty: I encourage you to find what sets your soul on fire because once you’ve found that, everything else clicks into place.
Are you interested in becoming a dialysis nurse? Check out our nursing showcase to explore the latest online and campus-based nursing programs. Browse by state or degree options, and contact schools directly.
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/
About 650,000 Americans are currently affected by End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD), and this number is increasing by 5% annually. The primary causes of kidney failure leading to ESRD are poorly managed diabetes and high blood pressure, the treatment options for which are limited to kidney transplant and dialysis. Unfortunately, there are currently more than 93,000 potential recipients on the kidney transplant waiting list and 80% of those individuals are on kidney dialysis while they wait.
Demand for Nurses is Growing
The specialty of nephrology and dialysis nursing continues to grow with these rising ESRD numbers. In fact, nephrology nursing is expected to grow over 25% within the next 10 years. These nurses can expect an attractive salary and a diverse working environment. Nephrology nurses might work on a typical hospital unit, but those who perform dialysis also work in dialysis centers, nursing homes, inpatient hospice centers, and even in-home health.
Nurses Develop Deeper Relationships with Patients
Renal failure is a chronic condition, so those who suffer from it must access care frequently. This means nephrology nurses will see their patients regularly. Dialysis nurses often have the ability to work with patients one on one, providing an opportunity to give care in a much more personal, attentive way. They also care for their patients through the continuum of the disease progression, so they get to know their patients quite well.
Certification and Advanced Education for Leadership
A nephrology nurse may elect to pursue certification or even further education and their Nephrology Nurse Practitioner certification. These nurses take their practice deeper, providing primary care for their patients who battle ESRD during dialysis and even after transplant—if and when that becomes possible.
There are plenty of worthwhile opportunities for nurses to make a difference in the lives of renal patients whose prognosis can be dire. Examples of such opportunities and further information on dialysis nursing can be found here.
Our Nurse of the Week is Maureen Moore, a dialysis nurse and clinical manager at Fresenius Kidney Care who chose her career path after her own battle with an aggressive kidney disease. Now, she’s using her own experiences as a patient to help her patients.
Moore was diagnosed with IgA nephropathy at 25 years old, a kidney disease that can lead to kidney failure. Her husband had recently joined the military, causing Moore to move just as she started to experience complications due to her kidney disease. At her first follow-up appointment, Moore was told that she was in kidney failure and needed to start dialysis immediately.
Her husband was deployed to Afghanistan at the same time, so Moore began dialysis treatments on her own away from friends and family. Although the experience was difficult, Moore found strength in the nurses and medical professionals who cared for her.
Moore’s family eventually helped move her back to Alabama to continue her dialysis treatments near family until she was able to get a kidney transplant. After receiving a transplant and gaining her health back, Moore decided to go to nursing school and become a dialysis nurse. Her own journey enables her to relate to and connect deeply with her patients because she truly understands what they’re going through.
Moore tells KDHNews.com, “For me and my patients it’s amazing because I can actually relate with sitting with them in the chair. I can go to them and tell them ‘You know what, I know what this is like.’”
To learn more about Maureen Moore’s journey from kidney failure to dialysis nurse, visit here.
At only 17 years old and a senior in high school, Blake Schuchardt began suffering from an illness that changed the course of the rest of his life. Eager to start college the next year, he woke up one morning feeling like he had caught a cold or flu. He hadn’t missed a single day of school yet that year so he decided to take a day off to rest and recover but wasn’t feeling any better the next morning.
After waking up stiff and lethargic, Schuchardt thought a bath might help him feel better but he was too sick to make it to the tub. Noticing purple splotches all over his body, Blake’s father decided to drive him to the emergency room. Doctors at the local hospital diagnosed the purple splotches as an allergic reaction along with the flu. However, the family wasn’t satisfied and drove two and a half hours to the Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville where Schuchardt was diagnosed with bacterial meningitis.
The doctors at Vanderbilt knew it was serious and told Blake’s parents to call the family because they didn’t think he was going to make it. After a week in a medically induced coma, Blake woke up and his chances started slowly improving each day. Due to lack of circulation, doctors thought they would have to amputate Blake’s legs which had turned black, but in the end they saved everything except three toes on his left foot.
But after escaping one serious emergency, they found out Blake’s kidneys weren’t functioning and he spent the following year on dialysis. When it became clear that his kidneys wouldn’t ever bounce back, Schuchardt was placed on a transplant list at Vanderbilt. Finally, he received a call one day around noon informing him that they had a kidney for him, and if he could make it to the hospital by midnight they would be able to give him the transplant. At 18 years old, a year and a half after his meningitis diagnosis, Schuchardt made the journey back to Vanderbilt to receive his new kidneys.
After receiving the kidney transplant, Schuchardt was able to attend college while receiving dialysis at home. He still didn’t know what he wanted to do with his life until he started getting close to his dialysis nurses and realized it was something he might like to do. Blake applied to nursing school and was accepted, and after his graduation he was hired for an opening at Fresenius Kidney Care in Paducah, the facility where he originally received his dialysis care.
Eventually he transferred to a position as a home therapy dialysis nurse where he’s remained since. Schuchardt says his own experience with kidney failure helps him connect with his patients because he understands the hardship they’re going through and the additional physical and emotional ailments that can go along with it. Many patients feel like dialysis is an anchor that holds them back from doing a lot of other things, but Schuchardt lives by the saying that life is as good as you make it.
Thank you to our Nurse of the Week, Blake Schuchardt, for bringing light and attention to the specialty of dialysis nursing. September 11-17 was Nephrology Nurses Week, a national event to honor dialysis nurses.