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Texas — “Seeing patients go from being sick to feeling healthy and energetic. It’s one of the reasons why I chose to work in a dialysis center,” says Tracey, a DaVita registered nurse (RN), who has worked with patients in the in-center nocturnal dialysis program at a DaVita center in Houston since it began in February 2005.
A dialysis patient herself for the last 15 years, Tracey understands first-hand what her patients are going through. “It can be disruptive to your lifestyle,” she explains. “On dialysis days, you get off work at 5:00 p.m. and you have to be at the center by 5:30 p.m. So you have to leave work early and lose pay or consider the impact to your health. There shouldn’t have to be a choice. You should be able to work 40 hours a week and do your treatment as well. That’s the benefit of in-center nocturnal dialysis. You can go home from work, have dinner with your family and even catch a TV show before coming in for treatment. You don’t have to worry any more about making it to dialysis on time if something unexpected comes up at work or at home.”
In fact, it was her need for dialysis that spurred Tracey on to pursue her dream of becoming a registered nurse. “It was something that I always wanted to do, and when I was diagnosed with kidney failure, I knew I had to enroll in nursing school,” she recalls. “I wanted to be an example for other dialysis patients to let them know that life doesn’t stop just because you need treatment.” The rigorous nursing school schedule left little time for treatment at a center, so Tracey learned to administer her own treatment at home. “It’s great that we now have more dialysis choices available.
Currently, 21 patients are participating in the in-center nocturnal dialysis program, which has a growing waiting list. Tracey describes a typical night: “On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, we operate the center 24 hours. The nocturnal dialysis patients start coming in around 6:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. They get settled with their own blankets and pillows and we set them up for eight hours of treatment. The patients can read, play video games, watch TV and then sleep in their recliners. It’s a much quieter, relaxed pace than the day treatment. We try to make it homey and as comfortable as possible. We have popcorn and watch patients’ favorite movies.”
Since everyone’s sleep patterns are different, Tracey notes that it usually takes about a week or so for patients to get used to the nocturnal dialysis schedule with the less restful sleep. “Once they do become accustomed to nocturnal dialysis, you can see a big difference in the patients’ energy levels.” Even better, many enjoy lifestyle and clinical benefits from the longer treatment time. “We’ve had patients who were able to go off some of their high blood pressure medications and phosphorus binders,” she says. “Patients can better pull off fluids over the longer dialysis time which allows them to feel much better after their treatment is over.”
A marathon runner as well as an RN, Tracey encourages dialysis patients to continue to challenge themselves and do the things they love. “In-center nocturnal dialysis is an option that offers patients independence and lifestyle flexibility. Our patients really love it!”
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