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5 Questions to Ask Your Nephrologist about Working

Staying employed while on dialysis is an option for many people with end stage renal disease (ESRD). In fact, people on dialysis continue to work may experience a lower rate of depression1 and score higher on general health and vitality tests2. If you’re thinking about continuing to work, ask your nephrologist the following questions:

1. What treatment options would best fit my work and lifestyle?

Whether it’s getting a transplant, dialyzing at home or receiving dialysis in-center, you have options when it comes to treating ESRD. Talk to your nephrologist to learn which treatment is right for you. Remember to consider how the working conditions and physical demands of your job may affect your decision.

2. Once I start dialysis, will I feel better to continue working?

People with kidney disease can experience tiredness and weakness. Maintaining a kidney-friendly diet, exercising regularly and being diligent about your treatments can often help relieve these symptoms. Ask your nephrologist for recommendations on diet and exercise. You may also want to contact a renal dietitian for additional support.

3. How often do I need to see you?

Sometimes a doctor’s visit may require time away from work. The frequency of your nephrologist visits could be anywhere from monthly to annually and depends on the stage of your kidney disease and what type of treatment you are receiving. Check with your human resources department at work about any necessary documentation for taking time off for scheduled appointments. Some employers may require documentation signed by your nephrologist.

4. How might my medication affect my performance at work?

Talk to your doctor about possible side effects from your medication and notify them if you are experiencing any. If you’re not feeling well enough to work, discuss your symptoms with your doctor to help determine if you should considering taking some time off or a leave of absence.

5. Who should I talk to about my legal rights as an employee?

As an employee with kidney disease, you have rights that can help you stay employed. Ask your nephrologist to point you to a social worker who can explain your legal rights and help you take steps to exercising them, including how to approach your human resources department at work to learn about its sick leave policy, disability insurance and eligibility under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA).

Kidney disease doesn’t have to keep you from your job. Talk to your nephrologist about your options and learn more about staying employed on dialysis.

1.Depressed Mood, Usual Activity Level, and Continued Employment after Starting Dialysis. Nancy G. Kutner, Rebecca Zhang, Yijian Huang, and Kirsten L. Johansen, 2012

2.Dialysis Patients’ Mental Health Linked To Heart Health And Longevity. Clinical Journal of the American Society Nephrology (CJASN) April 2012. Ea Wha Kang, MD, PhD, from the Ilsan Hospital in Gyeonggi-do, Korea and Mark Unruh, MD, from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center