Dialysis Caregivers

People who choose careers such as dietitian, social worker, nurse and other caregiver roles are generally thought to be caring and helpful individuals who want to make a difference in improving their patients’ lives. Talking to individuals about why they chose to be a caregiver in the dialysis field and learning what they enjoy about their jobs supports this idea.

Overall, renal caregivers say they enjoy helping people and providing the dialysis treatment that helps their patients live to see another day. In honor of National Kidney Month, National Social Worker Month and National Nutrition Month, we asked renal professionals a few questions to find out their feelings about working with dialysis patients. The questions and their answers appear below. We also asked them to share some of the interesting stories that have happened in their careers; some are touching, some are funny, but it’s all in a day at the dialysis center.

Why did you become a renal care professional?

Genevieve, a renal dietitian, says, “I have always been interested in nutrition and healthy eating since a young age. I have also had an interest in kidney disease due to the fact that my mother has been a dialysis nurse for over 20 years.”

Sharone, a clinical coordinator, also had inside knowledge of her profession, “I wanted to keep the nursing tradition alive in my family. I come from a long line of nurses, so it was instilled in me the pride that comes from helping others. “

Resa, a patient care technician (PCT), says, “I became a PCT because I wanted to help improve the quality of ESRD (end stage renal disease) patients’ lives. Little did I know that the patients I work with every day are helping to improve the quality of my life.”

Louise, a social worker, states, “I became a social worker because my undergraduate studies were in economics, which consists of the study of the maximization of resources. Over the years I realized that one of our nation’s most underutilized resources is human potential. I love being in a position to help people become the best they can be—no matter what the odds against them.”

Heavenlea, a patient care technician (PCT), shares her experience, “I know that every morning I go to work, I am having a part in saving another life, and giving someone another chance. This is one of the greatest gifts of my life.”

Kate, a peritoneal dialysis nurse, tells, “This was my first nursing job. I had responded to an ad in our local newspaper. Little did I know I would absolutely fall in love with my job. Five years later I am still here, love what I do, and enjoy coming to work everyday!”

What is the most rewarding aspect of your job?

Margaret, a social worker, finds her job fulfilling. “It is gratifying to empower patients and see how they believe in themselves and actually fulfill their dreams,” she says.

Deb, a patient care technician (PCT), says, “The smiles on patients’ faces,” give her the greatest reward.

Louise, a social worker, believes, "Assisting patients in overcoming their fears of dialysis,” is very satisfying.

Letty, a dietitian, enjoys the benefits the patients get because of the joint effort of everyone in her dialysis clinic. “Seeing the results of our teammates’ hard work,” makes Letty smile.

Mary, a dietitian, says, “Having a patient receive an excellent report card,” on their monthly lab work makes her happiest.

How do you make a difference in patients’ lives?

Kiera, an administrative assistant, says, “I continue to educate, and try to encourage patients as much as possible. I tell them that dialysis doesn't mean your life is over, but that you have to live it just a little bit differently.”

Jessica, an administrative assistant, confesses, “I love being the first face they see before they go into treatment because I always try my hardest to make them smile at least once before they go in.”

Elanderia, a social worker, tells us she makes a difference, “By empowering patients to do better and speaking a positive word into their lives.”

Sheryl, a registered nurse, shares “I try to listen to patients’ needs and teach them how to adjust their lives to dialysis. I try to teach them that they need to live life as fully as possible even though they have daily or weekly treatments. Honestly though, my patients give me more than I give them by being who they are. They are a very courageous group.”

What do you enjoy most about working with your patients?

Mary Margaret, a facility administrator, reveals, “I enjoy the relationships I have developed with my patients. It is most rewarding when the patients grasp the knowledge I have imparted to them. I am also most satisfied when the patients feel better, look better and are able to live their lives to their fullest potential.”

Sommer, a patient care technician (PCT), feels, “That every day I am helping patients live one more day.”

Robine, a patient care technician (PCT), says, “My patients come from different aspects; one will give cooking instruction for a pie or cake, the other knows what fashion trend is out, but to sum it up:  my patients are like family.”

April, a facility administrator, couldn’t chose just one thing she enjoys most, “I enjoy seeing patients smile. I enjoy keeping them healthy. I enjoy them having confidence in me and my team. I enjoy seeing them realize that life goes on even with ESRD (end stage renal disease).”

Angie, a facility administrator, enjoys, “Laughing with them—because I know if they are happy, they are feeling good. And, I know that the dialysis center is a place that since they have to come—they can enjoy coming. I love to hear family members say that their loved ones really do enjoy coming to our dialysis clinic!”

Tammy, an administrative assistant, states, ”Some patients start dialysis and they feel scared, sick and unsure. Then a month, a week or even a few treatments later, I see they are smiling, joking or even walking in versus using a wheelchair.”

Stories from the dialysis clinic

Juanita, an administrative assistant, tells, “One early morning I went into the clinic lobby to help a patient who was in a wheelchair weigh himself. After helping him I realized I had forgotten to take the door key to the office with me and was locked out. The other staff hadn’t arrived yet. There was a buzzer on the other side of the sliding glass receptionist window. I had to climb in through the window to reach the buzzer to let us back in. The patient was trying to help me hoist myself though. As soon as I was midway through the window, my supervisor and the unit nurse came through the door. The sight they saw was this man in a wheelchair pushing my butt through the window. They harassed us about that for years! The lesson learned was, never leave without my keys!”

Kiera, an administrative assistant, shares, “We had a visiting patient, and she kept looking at me strangely; I didn't want to make her uncomfortable, so I didn't say anything to her. Finally, I couldn't take it any longer, so I walked up to her and asked her what was wrong. She said, ‘You are the spitting image of a girl I took care of a long time ago.’ She mentioned the name of the girl, and I was blown away. The girl turned out to be my birth mother! (I was adopted at the age of 8, when my mother died). This lady had taken care of my mom until she was almost 17, so I got the chance to see pictures of my family that I had never seen.  You can't imagine the surprise I felt, because at that time, I was actively trying to trace my family.”

Lisa, a radiological technologist, laughs, “We were doing a dialysis catheter insertion on a patient that was very nervous and anxious. To distract her during the procedure we asked her what she liked to do for fun. She told us that she liked to be chased around the bed for fun and sometimes be caught.”

Terri, a facility administrator, beams, “We started dialyzing a young woman only 14-years old. We had her on our evening shift, so she could attend school during the day. We even had a teammate who donated a dress for her to go to her high school prom. She has now transferred to another state to attend college, and we are very proud of her. She is like one of our children who is now all grown up. We can't wait till she marries!”

David, a patient care technician (PCT), reveals, “When it’s a patient’s birthday I do a birthday dance for the patient. Now they all ask for it.”

Mary, a dietitian, jokes, “In an effort to make learning fun for our patients, we came up with a gimmick that our teammates and patients get a kick out of. For the past six years, ‘Madam Foso,’ our very own foreteller (a teammate dressed as a fortune teller), visits our unit around Halloween to foretell the bone future of our patients. As she holds their hands and gazes into the crystal ball, she recalls the PTH (parathyroid hormone) values to the patients. On one occasion, ‘Madam Foso’ held this gentleman’s hands over the crystal ball and the light glowed, wide-eyed he exclaimed, ‘I know who you are, and I am not telling!’"  

Esperanza, an administrative assistant, shares, “It’s really nice to tell the patients that I have a kidney transplant, and to see their reaction when they see I am so young to have gone through that. They get really excited when they see that I have a great life and that they could have the same thing when they get their transplant. Sometimes a patient will call me to their chair and ask me questions, and I love to share my story with them. I know that my story gives them hope for the future, and that’s what they need, HOPE!”

Margaret, a social worker, relays, “One of our patients met a fellow nursing home resident and fell in love. Neither had family in this city. We turned our conference room into a wedding chapel. Another patient's husband is a minister and officiated at the wedding. Our administrative assistant was the wedding photographer and the facility administrator’s daughter was the flower girl.”

Resa, a patient care technician, shares, “A mentally-challenged patient was at our unit last year. He had a stuffed rabbit that he brought with him named Peter Rabbit, and he loved him deeply. One day the patient came to his treatment without Peter Rabbit and tearfully told us that Peter had ran away. We did all we could to assure him that Peter would come back, because he loved him. Sure enough, at the next treatment the patient was once again with Peter Rabbit, but was fearful that the rabbit would run away again. That night, I went home and crocheted a bunny collar and leash for Peter Rabbit, so that the patient would always be able to find him. When I gave this to the patient, and explained what it was, his eyes filled with tears and the most beautiful smile lit his face. Peter Rabbit never ran away again. The patient passed away a few weeks later, and every time I think of him, I remember that beautiful smile that he gave me for something that probably only cost me a few cents and an hour of time. This patient taught me little things given with love and compassion can move mountains.” 

Many caregivers say that a smile and a “thank you” from their patients brighten their day. If you are so inclined, let your caregivers know they make a difference in your life.

Learn more about the different caregiver roles in the DaVita.com series of articles titled:  Who’s taking care of me at the dialysis center? Nurses, nephrologists (doctors who specialize in kidneys), facility administrators, dietitians, social workers, patient care technicians, reuse technicians and biomedical technicians all have important roles in providing your kidney care.