A dialysis nurse is an expert in treating patients with acute and chronic kidney diseases. For this kind of treatment, additional training is required since nursing patients with a kidney disease is different from nursing patients in a hospital ward like most of us know. Being a dialysis nurse includes the support and monitor of a patient as well as to medicate and educate the patients. This kind of nursing field, like every other kind of specialty, will make a difference in the wellbeing of a patient and extend their lifespan.

In this article we will interview the second of three dialysis nurses working in Africa. Our goal is to find out what it is like to be a dialysis nurse and which challenges they have to deal with.


Nurse, please introduce yourself

I am a Nephrology Nurse Specialist, currently working as the Unit Manager at a dialysis center in Mossel bay, South Africa. I have been working in dialysis for six years now. I qualified as a registered nurse in 2001. I completed the Advance Diploma in Nephrology Nursing in 2017 at NMU, Post Gradate Diploma in Nursing Education in 2018 at Stellenbosch University and I am currently busy with my Masters of Nursing at Stellenbosch University.

Why did you choose a job in this field? Why are you interested in this particular job?

I have always found the field of Nephrology very interesting, I remember as a junior nurse I was always fascinated by the dialysis machines when a patient was dialyzed in ICU. When the opportunity presented itself for me to go into the field of Nephrology, I didn’t hesitate to take it.


Are there any desirable personality traits that a dialysis nurse should have?

I don’t think there are any special personality traits other than the normal traits of a good nurse in general, this includes compassion, respect, calm under pressure, good communicator and knowledgeable. It will be an advantage if you are open to learning, as there are new dialysis machines on techniques on the horizon very often, and you should be willing to learn new skills and knowledge to keep up with the change.

Describe to me the position of a dialysis nurse.

It is difficult to describe the position of a dialysis nurse in a few sentences, there are so many responsibilities and roles of the dialysis nurse.

In short just to mention a few: dialysis nurses are responsible for overseeing dialysis treatments required by patients suffering from acute or chronic kidney failure. Perform patient assessment and monitor patients throughout treatment. Administration of medications and other treatments according to Physicians orders. Prepare, monitor and maintain dialysis machines and systems. Health education of patients, family members and the community. Accurate record keeping.


As a team leader, how would you lead your team?

I have always considered myself as having a democratic leadership style, I like to involve my team members in decision making I feel this boosts the employee’s motivation and increase their performance skills.


How flexible is your schedule?

Dialysis has quite a fixed schedule as our patients are divided into certain time slots for their dialysis session, two or three times a week, depending on the doctor’s prescription. Patients and staff have to adhere strictly to these schedules in order to assure the smooth running of the unit.


What is most challenging about dialysis patient care?

Each profession comes with its own challenges, but it is how you handle these challenges that matters at the end of the day. The dialysis nurse should always strive to provide optimal patient care. I think the biggest challenge facing dialysis patient care is the fact that patients do not comply with all their treatment sessions, medication prescriptions and diet restrictions.


Working with patients for a long time, you build up a relationship. How close do you get to the patients?

I believe as with all nurses a therapeutic nurse-patient relationship is very important, as this enable the nurses to spent more time to interact with their patients as well as to understand their patient’s needs better. It’s not different for the dialysis nurse, as you spent a lot of time with your patients, you see them three times a week, every week. It’s a helping relationship that’s based on mutual trust and respect, however as a nurse, your obligated to keep your relationships  with patients strictly professional.


How do you deal with difficult patients?

As with any profession there is always the unforeseen possibility where you will have to deal with a difficult patient at some stage of your profession. I have a method that I always follow in that particular situation, that has stuck with me from my student days: Remain calm; try to draw out the patient’s feelings by engaging in conversation; be empathetic; avoid arguing; set boundaries; try to find a solution; if unsuccessful refer to your supervisor for advice.

How are you handling the dialysis treatment during the corona crisis?

We are taking this pandemic very seriously and are co-operating fully with the regulations stipulated by the Government. We have very strict protocols and guidelines that we follow as set out by our head office. We also follow strict hygiene and disinfections protocols. We do risk assessments on all patients and staff when entering the unit. The safety and health of my patients and fellow colleagues are very important to me during these challenging times.


The Nephrology Nurse Specialist we interviewed would like to stay anonymous. We want thank them for taking the time to answer our questions. We wish you all of the best for the future and thank you for making a big difference in many people’s life.

Keywords: Dialysis Nurse, Clinical Technologist, Dialysis Patient Care, Corona Crisis

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