Who Is On Your Medical Team?

Who will be taking care of you?

Hello everyone,

Today I want to talk about the members of the medical team that you would find at the nephrologist’s office or dialysis unit.  When you know who is on the team and what they do, it will make your interactions with the team more effective.

Physician

The physician you will see is a nephrologist, who is a doctor who has had additional training in kidney disease.  The nephrologist is also responsible for medical care related to dialysis.

Advance Practitioner

Some physicians have advanced practitioners working in their practice.  This could be a Nurse Practitioner (NP) or a Physician Assistant (PA).  They work in partnership with the physician and are supervised by a physician.  Both NPs and Pas have specialized training that allows them to see patients, make a diagnosis and prescribe some medications.  What NPs and PAs are licensed to do, is governed by state law and can differ from one state to another.  Because of their advanced training and because they are supervised by a physician, you can feel confident in their ability to provide you with good care.

Nephrology Nurse

A nephrology nurse is a registered nurse (RN) who has additional training in the care of patients with kidney disease.  They will coordinate patient care along the other members of the medical team.  Some nephrology nurses may also be qualified to train patients on dialysis. Including home hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis.

Renal Dietitian

A renal dietitian is a registered dietitian who has specialized knowledge about diet and nutrition and kidney disease.  The dietitian can help you understand what food choices to make when you have kidney disease and especially if you also have other chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure and diabetes.  If you are dialysis, the dietitian will be able to help you make a food plan to ensure you stay as healthy as possible.

Nephrology Social Worker

The nephrology social worker is licensed and registered and usually has a master’s degree in social work.  Their role is to provide counseling to help the patient and their families to better cope with living with kidney disease.  They can help connect patients and their families with services and resources in the community.  The social worker can help improve the quality of life for both the patient and their family members.

Patient Care Technicians and Renal Technologists

Both the patient care technician and the renal technicians work under the supervision of the nephrology nurse or the nephrologist.  Patient care technicians are most directly involved with patient care in dialysis centers.  In some dialysis centers, they are responsible for starting and ending each dialysis treatment and for monitoring the patient during and after dialysis.   Renal technologists or technicians are responsible for maintaining the dialysis machines and maintaining water quality in dialysis centers.  They order the materials needed for dialysis and perform reprocessing of the dialyzers.

Unit Clerk/Secretary

This is most likely the first person you will encounter at the unit.  They can answer your questions and connect you with the appropriate member of the medical team.

Financial Counselor/Billing Clerk

Most units will have a financial counsellor or billing clerk who can answer any questions you might have about insurance coverage or other issues related to payment.

Now you have met your medical team and you know what each of them does.  Obviously there may be some differences from one practice to another, but this is a good overview. You now know who does what, and who can help with specific issues.  As a team they are there to help you as you deal with kidney disease, no matter what stage of kidney disease you may have.  Get to know them and ask for help when you need it.  Like you, they want the best for you and they want you to live in your best health.

Until next time,

The Doc Brown

 

References:

National Kidney Foundation https://www.kidney.org/atoz/content/healthcareteam

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