Your dialysis care team
- Medically reviewed by
- AKF's Medical Advisory Committee
- Last updated
- January 21, 2022
Your dialysis care team may include:
Your nephrologist is your kidney doctor. When it is time for you to start treatment, they will answer your questions about your dialysis options and prescribe any medicines you will need. They are in charge of your care plan. You will meet with them often to check on your kidney health and make any changes to your care plan.
The nephrology nurse, or dialysis nurse, is a nurse who is trained to care for people with kidney disease. You will see nephrology nurses in your nephrologist's office and in your dialysis center. They will make sure you get your dialysis treatment just as your nephrologist prescribed it:
- If you have in-center dialysis, you will see your nurses at every dialysis session. Your nurse will make sure you are getting the right medicines every day and that you are getting your dialysis treatments correctly.
- If you do your dialysis at home, your nurse will teach you how to do it. They will also plan, coordinate and oversee your care.
Nurse practitioner (NP) or physician assistant (PA)
NPs and PAs are also called advanced practitioners because they have more training in kidney care than a nephrology nurse. They partner with your nephrologist to care for you, both in the doctor's office and in your dialysis center. They may prescribe medicines, order tests and do exams.
Renal dietitians have special training in dietetics to know what foods are right for people with kidney disease. To feel and do your best on dialysis, you will need to change how you eat and drink. Your dietitian can help you follow a kidney-friendly food and fluid plan while on dialysis. They can help you:
- Create a kidney-friendly meal plan that works for you
- Understand which foods and drinks are healthy for you, and which you should avoid
- Plan how much of each nutrient you should have each day
Nephrology social worker
Nephrology social workers have a master's degree in clinical social work and are licensed or certified. They can help you and your family cope with kidney disease and all the changes that come with it, such as insurance, work and travel. They can also help you and your family improve your quality of life. Social workers can:
- Offer emotional, behavioral and mental health support to you and your family.
- Find sources of emotional support, such as dialysis support groups.
- Help you apply to programs to get financial help.
- Help you get or keep health insurance.
Patient care technicians (PTCs)
PTCs do every step of your dialysis treatment. In many dialysis centers, they will:
- Start your dialysis treatment at each session
- Watch to make sure everything is going well during your treatment
- End your treatment when it is finished
If you do dialysis at home, they will make sure you have the supplies you need.
Biomedical technicians maintain dialysis machines and the water quality in dialysis centers. They also order dialysis supplies.
Vascular access team
If you are on hemodialysis, either at home or in-center, you will also have a vascular access team:
- The vascular access surgeon will do minor surgery on your arm, leg, neck or upper chest to create an access (a way to get to your blood). The surgeon will talk with you about your access options and help you choose the one that fits your needs. For most people, the best option is an access called a fistula.
- The radiologist (imaging doctor) will do X-rays to help plan your access surgery.
- The access coordinator will review your medical history and make sure you get the right kind of access for your treatment. This person may be a nurse or another health care professional.
Dialysis center staff
Secretary or unit clerk
These are the first people you will meet when you go to the dialysis center. They can connect you with the team members who can answer your questions.
The clinical manager is a registered nurse who is in charge of the dialysis center. They oversee all of the dialysis staff to make sure you get the care you need.
Most dialysis centers have billing staff who can answer your questions about insurance, billing and payment.