Health Care Team

Good health care is always a team effort - especially for people with chronic kidney failure. Since each member of the health care staff contributes to your care, it is important for you and your family to build a good working relationship with them. The health care team will probably include:

Nephrologist (Doctor)

The team leaders in many medical facilities are doctors called nephrologists - or, to use an easier term, "kidney doctors." Nephrologists are doctors who have advanced training in treating kidney disease. They are responsible for medical care during dialysis treatments.

Nephrologists also may be responsible for patient care before and after a kidney transplant. Before the transplant operation can take place, medical problems such as diabetes or high blood pressure must be well controlled. After the operation, nephrologists see patients for long-term follow-up care, and they handle medical problems that may arise, such as rejection of the kidney.

Advanced Practitioner

Your team may also include advanced practitioners. Nurse practitioners (NP) and Physician Assistants (PA) collaborate with the doctors in caring for kidney patients both in medical offices or in the dialysis unit.

Nephrology Nurse

Nephrology nurses are licensed, registered nurses who have specialized experience in the care of patients with chronic kidney failure. Nephrology nurses coordinate patient care with the other team members. Some of them may be qualified to train patients to do home hemodialysis, continuous ambulatory peritoneal dialysis (CAPD) and automated peritoneal dialysis (APD).

Renal Nutritionist (Dietitian)

Renal dietitians have specialized degrees in dietetics and must be registered. They know what foods are right for kidney patients, and they can help you plan your meals. Following a diet is an important part of patient care, both before and after starting dialysis or after transplantation. Renal dietitians are qualified to provide comprehensive nutrition assessments and education, and to help address nutrition problems. They are skilled in tailoring solutions to meet each patient's unique needs. The overall goal is to promote the best nutritional intake to ensure the patient's optimal health.

Nephrology Social Worker

Most nephrology social workers have a master's degree in clinical social work and are licensed or certified. Nephrology social workers provide counseling to help patients and their families cope with kidney disease and changes in the family, home, workplace and community. They help patients plan treatment to fit their lifestyle and activities. They identify sources of emotional support for patients who need it. They also identify services within federal, state and community agencies to meet patients' needs and help patients and families access services when necessary. Social workers can help patients and their families improve their quality of life.

Patient Care Technician and Renal Technologist

There are two kinds of technicians in dialysis facilities - patient care technicians and renal technologists. Both work under the supervision of the nephrology nurse or nephrologist.

Patient care technicians are often the health care team members who are most directly involved with the patient's dialysis treatment. In many dialysis units, they are responsible for starting and ending each treatment and for monitoring patients before, during and after treatments.

Renal technologists or technicians are responsible for maintaining dialysis machines and water quality in the dialysis facilities. They order dialysis supplies and perform reprocessing of dialyzers (artificial kidneys).

Secretary/Unit Clerk

Often, these are the first people patients meet when they come to the unit. They can answer your questions or direct you to the appropriate health care team member.

Financial Counselor/Billing Personnel

All transplant facilities have financial counselors and most dialysis facilities have billing personnel who can answer questions you may have about insurance coverage and billing or payment questions.

The Patient

You and your family are the most important members of the health care team. You can take an active role in your care by learning all you can and cooperating fully with your treatment plan.

At first, you may be somewhat overwhelmed by your illness and by all the new names and faces. However, you and your family should not be afraid to ask questions. Each and every person on the health care team is there to help you feel your best.

The Transplant Team

If you are a candidiate for a kidney transplant, your health care team will also include the following:

Transplant Surgeon
These doctors have advanced training in general surgery or urology. They will perform the transplant operation and answer any questions you may have about the surgery or about the follow-up care. The transplant surgeon and/or your kidney doctor will take care of your follow-up care after the operation.

Clinical Transplant Coordinator
Clinical transplant coordinators are the patient's link to the transplant hospital. Many are licensed, registered nurses or physician's assistants who have specialized experience in the care of kidney transplant recipients. Clinical transplant coordinators assist patients with all the details of care involved in preparing for transplantation. This process includes scheduling tissue typing tests, educating patients and families about the risks and benefits of donation and transplantation, scheduling the operation and arranging checkups before and after the transplant. Clinical transplant coordinators also serve as information resources for patients and families after the transplant.

Donor Coordinator
Donor coordinators serve an important role for patients who are waiting for a transplant. They participate in every aspect of the procurement procedure, including obtaining consent from families of organ donors, donor maintenance and the distribution, preservation and transportation of organs for transplantation.

If you would like more information, please contact us.

© 2014 National Kidney Foundation. All rights reserved. This material does not constitute medical advice. It is intended for informational purposes only. Please consult a physician for specific treatment recommendations.