Think of everyone who helps to care for you as part of a team. You are the team captain, and your dialysis care team members all play different supporting roles to help you achieve your health goals. Use the information here to learn what each team member does to help you through dialysis. Communication between team members is the key to success!
Your nephrologist is your kidney doctor. He or she can answer any questions you have about treatment options, medicines and how to care for your kidneys. You will meet with your nephrologist often to check on your kidney health and make any necessary changes to your care plan. If you have a kidney transplant, you will still see a nephrologist to make sure your new kidney stays healthy.
Nurse practitioner or physician assistant
You may have a nurse practitioner (NP), physician assistant (PA) or both on your care team. NPs and PAs have additional training in kidney care beyond what a nephrology nurse has. NPs and PAs work with closely with the nephrologist and the nephrology nurses. They may prescribe medicines, order tests and examine you.
The nephrology nurse is a registered nurse who is trained to take care of kidney patients. You will see nephrology nurses in your doctor’s office and in your dialysis center. If you choose to have in-center dialysis, you will see your nephrology nurses at every dialysis session. Your nurse will make sure that you are getting the right medicines every day and that you are getting your dialysis treatments correctly. If you choose to do your dialysis at home, a nephrology nurse will teach you how to do it. Even if you choose to do your dialysis at home, you may contact a nurse about any questions you have or help you need.
Your renal dietitian can help you meet your specific and unique nutrition needs. You may have already had to adjust your diet to control the amount of fluid, protein and certain vitamins and minerals in your blood. When you are on dialysis, your renal dietitian will help you understand what foods and drinks are healthy for you and which ones are not. He or she will also help you plan how much of each nutrient you should eat per day.
Nephrology social worker
Your social worker will support you in many ways as you go through dialysis. Social workers provide emotional support to you and your family, help you communicate your needs to the other members of your care team and help you find resources to improve your quality of life. If you need to stop working, for example, your social worker can help you apply for financial assistance programs. He or she can also help you get health insurance or keep it if you already have it.
The dialysis technicians are responsible for starting your dialysis treatment at each session, watching to make sure everything is going well during your treatment and ending your treatment when it is finished. They also make sure the dialysis machines are ready and working correctly for each patient. If you are on peritoneal dialysis or home hemodialysis, the dialysis technicians will make sure you have all of the supplies you need to do your dialysis treatments.
Vascular Access Team
If you are on hemodialysis, either at home or in-center, a vascular access team will perform the surgery to insert your vascular access that will connect you to the dialysis machine. Vascular access teams usually include a surgeon, a radiologist (a doctor who reads X-rays and other body scans), and a vascular access coordinator. The coordinator will work with you to review your medical history and make sure you get the right kind of vascular access for your treatment plans.