May 6, 2022 is National Nurses Day and kicks off the start of National Nurses Week. The value and impact that nurses bring to the kidney community is profound. That is why Northwest Kidney Council and our partners support efforts to improve the credentialing process and ensure patients receive the specialized care they require to live.
To celebrate National Nurses Day, Northwest Kidney Council took a moment to sit down and chat with a few of these amazing nurses. Keep reading for our conversation with Kelsi Blake, an acute dialysis charge nurse covering Portland, Vancouver, and Longview.
Northwest Kidney Council: How did you get into nursing?
Kelsi Blake: I started as a nursing assistant, and first I wanted to work with animals, but then I fell in love with people. From there, I stair-stepped my way through nursing.
I donated plasma through college because you can earn a little bit [of money] and help save lives. A lot of people use plasma. In fact, human albumin is something you get from plasma, and I use it all the time now.
One time, while donating, the manager saw I was studying and asked me what I was studying for; I told him and got hired in a plasmapheresis setting.
This field combined a lot of the things that I had already done working with blood and blood products. I thought I might try it, and it was the perfect fit. I got to work with computers, which I absolutely love. I have a tech brain. I got to use computers, machines, and then work with people.
That was it for me. I was like, "This is where I want to be. This is it."
NWKC: What's your favorite part about being a nurse?
Kelsi: I get to touch so many lives. It's a very fulfilling feeling being able to help people live longer and make their day brighter and better. It’s the little things make people smile, like warm blankets or a glass of water. It's a very fulfilling job. I don't know that everybody gets fulfilled like I do from their work.
In dialysis, kidney patients with end stage renal disease, they know they could pass away. Being a dialysis nurse, we get to give them those extra few days or extra months or years to spend with their loved ones. Or maybe [it’s extra time to] get their affairs in order because maybe long-term dialysis isn't what they choose. Sometimes, people get new kidneys and it's really fulfilling.
It's working with the people that’s my favorite part.
NWKC: What's one thing you wish more people knew about your work being a nurse, or maybe about the kidney community? Is there something that you wish more people understood?
Kelsi: That is a great question. That's what led me to not only work with end stage renal disease patients, but to also work in community health – is to reach people before it gets to end stage renal disease. I don't think a lot of people know how many people end up on dialysis and how many people are affected by kidney disease. Hypertension and diabetes are two comorbidities that are high up there that cause kidney failure.
I wanted to be able to reach patients before they got to me in the hospital before they got to be ESRD. I wish that people knew how to take care of their kidneys and all the things that affect your kidneys.
NWKC: I'm wondering if you could walk me through a typical day in your world?
Kelsi: I'm an acute dialysis nurse. I don't know if you know the difference between the acute dialysis and chronic. Chronic, you are three times a week, for example, Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You will come see me Monday, Wednesday, and Friday. You come to the clinic at a certain time.
I did that work for many years, but now I'm an acute dialysis nurse, which means I work at the hospital. I work with a vast interdisciplinary team.
I could work in the emergency department. I could end up working on a med surg floor. Wherever a kidney patient is and however critical it is, that's where I will be. At first, it was a little intimidating to be in the ICU working with really critically ill patients.
You work in conjunction with the primary nurse, the internist, your nephrologist. I get an assignment the night before work. They may tell me that I'm going to the ICU to see patient X.
Then, I let them know I have arrived. I get a machine. We use a lot of water when we do dialysis, so I have to grab a reverse osmosis machine, dialysate, and everything that I'll need. I review the patient's labs.
I review their medications. I review their last dialysis treatments, but sometimes it’s none. It's their first time. Of course, I talk with the patient. In an ICU setting, they may or may not be awake. They can be sedated. Then I get started. That is one way that I present for dialysis in an acute setting.
The other way is I work in a dialysis suite with multiple patients, multiple technicians, and nurses. I'm actually the charge nurse in the dialysis suite. I present there a lot. It can be busy.
We get some urgent needs there, but a lot of these patients are fluid overloaded. They are chronic kidney patients that maybe they missed dialysis, maybe they have COVID. Right now, unfortunately, it's so crucial for people to know that there's not enough nephrology nurses. There's not enough technicians. Sometimes centers may have to close.
Our patients that are very sick [are] filling the emergency room. Sometimes, they weren't able to dialyze at their center because they had COVID or they couldn't get a test. Testing was really hard to get for a while.
What was really difficult, is that patients can't go a week without dialysis and testing was a week out. You couldn't get in without a negative test if you've been exposed. It made life really complicated for our patients. They were missing treatments, and missing treatments can lead to death. It's really serious.
I could present for work in numerous ways. That's what makes it so cool is that every day is different. I'm with a different patient. I'm on a different floor. Sometimes, we go to multiple hospitals. I'm traveling to a crucial site in Tacoma next month. They're really hurting for staff. They're sending me there for a whole week. I'll stay in a hotel and I will work every day, 12 hours a day for six days.
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Northwest Kidney Council would like to thank all the nurses who work every day on behalf of the kidney community. To learn more about our efforts to support the kidney community and to get involved, please visit nwkidneycouncil.org/advocacy.