Meet your treatment team: Dialysis nurse

Dialysis nurses help you live your healthiest life while on dialysis. Unlike nurses at your primary care doctor’s office or in a hospital, dialysis nurses are specialists in nephrology and can become experts in treating their patients. They use that expertise in working with your care team to come up with a treatment plan for you.

Your dialysis nurse cares for you by monitoring your health, ensuring your safety and making sure your treatments are effective.

Monitoring your health

Your nurse is responsible for monitoring your health on an ongoing basis, most of which is done behind-the-scenes. They go over your lab results, review your medicines monthly to make sure you are taking the correct pills and dosages, write up monthly summaries of how you are doing to share with your care team and conduct annual assessments of your health.

Since your nurse works with you multiple times per week, they are able to build a closer relationship with you than other types of nurses. This allows them to listen for clues that may impact your health or treatments, such as a dinner out with friends at a restaurant with few kidney-friendly options or anything that may be causing you stress.

Ensuring your safety

Your nurse protects your health by making sure you are dialyzing safely. If you dialyze in a clinic, they do an assessment of your health before you begin your dialysis treatment to make sure it is safe to dialyze that day, and again after your treatment to clear you to go home if you are healthy enough to do so. Your nurse also likely manages the dialysis technician(s) on their shift, which can include: safety checks to make sure the treatment areas are sterilized between patients, your vitals are checked every 30 minutes during treatment, the water is being monitored for safe levels and the machines are running correctly.

If you dialyze at home, a nurse probably trained you and a caregiver to do your treatments yourself, and a nurse is always on call in case you need help with your machine or treatment. A nurse also likely visited your home to make sure it is safe to do treatments there and that you have enough space to store your equipment and supplies.

Treating you effectively

Your nurse sets goals for your dialysis treatments so you get the most benefit out of each session. If you are managing other conditions, like anemia, your nurse can alter your dialysis goals and add medicines to help treat that too.

Your nurse, along with other members of your care team, also provides ongoing education about eating kidney-friendly foods, monitoring your fluid and nutrient intake, taking your medicines as prescribed and more. The education they provide can help empower you to take control of your health while managing kidney disease.

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About the Author(s)

Elissa Blattman

Elissa Blattman is the associate director of communications at the American Kidney Fund.

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