Patient-centered care focuses on involving patients in their own care. People with kidney disease often face important decisions about their dialysis options and how to make their care most effective. These choices are often very personal and have a direct impact on their quality of life.

The patient relationship

There are two major elements in involving patients: engagement and empowerment. Both are crucial to achieving the best possible outcomes. Patient engagement has the goal of helping the patient make competent, well-informed decisions about their care and taking actions to support that care. Patient empowerment allows patients to take responsibility for their own health care decisions and to participate fully in their care.

Nephrology nurses spend a great deal of time with nephrology patients, many of whom need long-term care for complicated and chronic conditions. We are highly trained, specialized nurses who practice in all areas of nephrology including hemodialysis, chronic kidney disease (CKD), peritoneal dialysis, acute care, and transplantation. We work in freestanding dialysis units, hospital outpatient units, hospital inpatient units, and many other settings.

One of our key roles is to ensure patients and families are well educated about the disease, treatment options and how to stay as healthy as possible.

“As such, nurses understand that we should not view the patient as a visitor. We are partners in their care.”

Treating with empathy

Donald Berwick, M.D., former Centers of Medicare and Medicaid Services Administrator has said that when nurses and other providers care for patients, they must remember, “We are guests in their lives.”

As such, nurses understand that we should not view the patient as a visitor. We are partners in their care. Therefore it’s extremely important that we empower and engage our patients as much as possible.

This is particularly true in patients with chronic kidney disease. These patients are experiencing a chronic disease that requires ongoing care, whether it is pre-end stage, dialysis, or transplantation.

Many times, patients are seen more than once a week in dialysis centers. Patients who are engaged feel empowered to be active participants in their care. By doing so, they are committed to follow through with the plan of care and require less medical services overall.

A holistic approach

In the highly regulated end-stage renal disease environment, there are mandates regarding the types of information that must be provided to patients with the expectation that the patient’s voice will be a key determinant in the individual’s plan of care.

The outcomes for patients with chronic kidney disease cannot and will not be improved unless the individual is engaged in the daily management of their complex disease.

Along with our role as health care providers and educators, nephrology nurses are key advocates for their patients, addressing their concerns and making sure all their needs are met in a comprehensive, holistic way.

The ultimate goal should be that each of our patients understands and manages his or her own care, while negotiating with myriad health care providers. Patients should also be able to navigate through complex health care systems and achieve high-quality outcomes.

The goal is lofty but the outcome is worth the effort.