Your First Visit with a Kidney Doctor

By Katie Pickard and Erick Smith
Satellite Healthcare PATHfinders™ in Texas and California
 
Referral to your kidney doctor, a nephrologist, can come with a variety of emotions. These are some of the steps you can use as a guide to prepare for that very first visit.
 
This will be a good start until you become more and more comfortable at each visit. This could be a bit overwhelming when you first look at it! The best way to start is to take care of two or three tasks at a time so it doesn’t feel like too much all at once.

Before the appointment

Support is important throughout the process. So talk with a family member or friend who you would be comfortable coming with you. They can assist with the information and making decisions. Write down a list of questions and concerns in a notebook that you bring with you. Ask the office these questions before the appointment:
  • What type of physical examination(s) will be done?
  • What type of clothing should I wear?
  • Will a urine sample be needed at the beginning of my appointment?
  • Where should I park for the office/department?

During the appointment

Plan to arrive 15 minutes early to the office. Bring information and items with you to the appointment. All this information will not be given to the doctor, but may be given to the registration clerk, medical assistant or nurse. That information should include:
  • A list of symptoms and how long you have had those symptoms
  • A list of all of your current doctors with contact information
  • An updated list of medications
  • Current insurance cards
  • Your medical history
  • A surgery list
Some patients have other items they can bring. For example, if you have lab work done at an outside lab, make the office aware at the visit. If you check your blood pressure at home, bring your blood pressure cuff to the visit so they can check your cuff as well as the blood pressure readings. Also, if you check your weight at home, bring a few recent weights.

Questions you can ask

These are some recommended frequently asked questions for a first visit with your nephrologist:
  1. Why have I been referred to a nephrologist?
  2. What is the reason my kidneys are not working properly?
  3. What stage of kidney disease am I in and what does that mean?
  4. How rapidly is my kidney function declining?
  5. What can I do to slow, delay or reverse the decline in my kidney function?
  6. What are my options for treatment and how do I learn about these options?
  7. What are the side effects of each treatment option?
  8. Who should I call with new problems or questions?
  9. Are there any special diet guidelines that I should follow?
  10. Do I need to make other lifestyle changes?
 
After the appointment
You’ve made one of the first steps in the process to understanding your kidneys and kidney disease. Education is the next very important step. Contact NKF Cares Helpline (1.855.653.2273 or nkfcares@kidney.org) to receive free information, tools, and resources for protecting your kidney function, diet and lifestyle changes and your treatment options. Educate yourself about your options because you do have options. Make the choice that is best for you, your lifestyle and your future goals. These decisions should include a team of people such as trusted friends, family and your new nephrologist.