Choosing a Kidney Doctor When You Need Dialysis

When you’re diagnosed with stage 4 or stage 5 kidney disease and start preparing to go on dialysis, your first step is to identify a kidney specialist (also called a nephrologist). With just a little research, you can find the nephrologist that fits your needs when it’s time for dialysis.

Where do I start my kidney doctor search?

Here are a couple of suggestions on how to start:

  • If friends or family members have undergone dialysis or have been touched in some way by kidney disease, ask if they can suggest a kidney specialist. Your primary care practitioner (PCP) can also recommend a kidney doctor for you. If you need to see the doctor immediately, there’s no need to worry. You can switch to a different nephrologist after your visit if you’d like.
  • Online resources can be very helpful when searching for a doctor. There are several websites that allow users to review and rate doctors, including, and

Steps for zeroing in on the right kidney doctor

1. After the research process, make a list of potential kidney doctors.

2. Narrow down your choices by making a pros and cons list. Write out what attributes are important to you and check either “pro” or “con” next to each item. Your list may include:

  • Insurance coverage – You may be restricted to certain physicians who accept your type of health insurance.
  • Location – Is the doctor conveniently located to your home? If not, can you find transportation to appointments?
  • Ratings from medical websites – Reading about other patient experiences may help you narrow down your choice.
  • Availability – Are you able to schedule appointments easily with the nephrologist or does the wait time seem excessive for you?
  • Friendly and helpful staff – You will be visiting or calling the office often, so you may look for staff that is welcoming and responsive.
  • Affiliation – Is the doctor associated with your provider of choice?
  • Training/background – Do you have preferences about where the doctor received training or how long he or she has been practicing nephrology?
  • Translation services – If you plan to have someone who speaks another language help you with your kidney care, consider if translation services are available at the doctor’s practice.

3. Make the decision based on the pros and cons. Choose a kidney doctor and make an appointment right away. Bring a list of questions for him or her to answer during your visit to ensure that you have the information you need as you transition to dialysis.