nlkimmel is a MSN, PhD, RN and specializes in MSN-FNP-BC.
nlkimmel posted a topic in Advanced
Many of us don’t think about kidney disease on a regular basis, unless of course we are one of the 468,000 people in the U.S. on weekly hemodialysis treatments. Hemodialysis centers appear to be popping up regularly in communities across America. Many of these centers are situated next to restaurants and shopping centers. As unobtrusive as they may seem, one may ask why are there so many? According to the N.I.D.D.K. there was a dramatic increase in the number of patients who needed hemodialysis in 2012. The numbers have remained constant up until present day.
Patients receiving hemodialysis two to three times per week typically spend four to seven hours at the center. The process is very grueling. After the patient is assessed with respect to their health and diet, they are then weighed and taken to their dialysis chair. The dialysis technician will then don PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and using the sterile field technique, proceed to cannulate the patient’s fistula. Their fistula may be central venous, brachial cephalic or radial cephalic. This step could cost the patient their life if not performed by a skilled medical professional. After the patient has been cannulated the dialysis technician then prepares the dialysis machine. The patient will spend the bulk of their time in their recliner as their blood is siphoned from their bodies and put back into their circulation free of waste products.
When a physician determines that a patient must undergo dialysis it usually implies that they are in end stage renal disease and that their nephrons are no longer functioning. The patient is then required to undergo a surgical procedure where a vein in their arm is anastomosed to an artery. Usually this is either the cephalic vein and the brachial artery or the cephalic vein and radial artery. This fistula must heal for a minimum of six weeks before it can be used for dialysis.
If you are reading this and thinking that this procedure left to unlicensed professionals could be dangerous for the patient, you wouldn’t be wrong. The number of patients who are taken by ambulance from the dialysis center because of complications is unknown. What is known, is that there is usually only one dialysis nurse for up to 15 or more dialysis patients, and only 2 or 3 dialysis technicians at any particular time. Also, most of the dialysis centers are privately owned an operated. Thus, they are small businesses. So, what type of training does a dialysis technician need to be able to work in the field? The answer is minimal. Dialysis centers try their best to train new employees who have some patient care background such as nursing assistant experience and or phlebotomy, but they fall short of being able to invest the necessary time to train them properly. Therefore, they are usually given a training manual and have to hit the ground running with a short shadowing session.
The phrase, “failure to rescue” has been bounced around the medical arena and in literature for some time, but has fallen on deaf ears. For the most part, this is due to medicine being a big business. This is most apparent in the small independently owned dialysis centers. Insurance companies pay a flat fee for hemodialysis treatment. While it is much less expensive at privately owned dialysis centers, the tradeoff is the lack of quality care. The small private dialysis centers prefer to hire non-licensed medical personnel, with minimal nursing supervision.
How is the patient affected by these decisions? Putting it bluntly, they are in danger. A hemodialysis technician is not aware of the subtle signs and symptoms of hypovolemia or hypervolemia. Most of the time the technician will only respond when the dialysis machine sounds an alarm, and by then it may be too late. Certified nursing assistants and phlebotomist do not know and are not trained to recognize the significance of upper thoracic petechiae coupled with a dropping oxygen saturation, rising blood pressure and augmented mentation. So, what do we do to protect the renal patient from lapsing into a rapidly deteriorating condition? Perhaps, the answer is to train the unlicensed employees using the nursing process. Those who are hired learn how to thread the machine and mechanics of operation. This is more biomedical than it is nursing. The nursing component is completely removed.
Nursing organizations are strong opponents against training non-licensed healthcare personnel in the nursing process technique. It is understandable that they should feel this way. Nursing has graduated to become an evidenced based science. It requires those who practice to have a firm understanding not only of the human aspect but the physiology of the disease process. However, the fact remains, that if the dialysis technician is not able to recognize the signs and symptoms of complications related to hemodialysis the patient’s condition will decline rapidly.
As nurses we know that we have a responsibility and duty of care for our communities and our fellow man. We are patient advocates, protectors of patient’s dignity, safety and above all, we are teachers. We teach. Perhaps that is all we can do in situations that employee those who are not adequately trained. Implementing this training may best be embraced by the dialysis center owners via discounted rates from insurance companies. While this problem cannot be solved overnight, it will take all parties to agree on change, and change, as all nurses know is entirely its own topic. I would love to hear from dialysis nurses and their experiences. Do you feel that the dialysis techs need more training?
I've only worked hospice for nearly my entire career thus far, so I have no experience with any of the dialysis methods, except having observed my brother-in-law as he did his peritoneal dialysis a time or two. I have on occasion given serious consideration to the idea of working with dialysis patients, especially since there's a brand new DaVita center about a mile from my house.
For me to say I'm staring bug-eyed at my screen right now, with my mouth gaped open and my jaw on the floor after reading the contents of your article just doesn't quite convey the level of astonishment I'm feeling right now
I had no idea these clinics operated this way. I assumed, as most people likely do, that there would be an adequate number of properly trained and qualified medical personnel on hand to closely monitor the patients at all times during their dialysis session. I don't mind saying that the fact I'm in the early stages of Chronic Kidney Disease myself and could one day be the patient sitting in one of those chairs in a understaffed clinic with inadequately trained techs as the machine performs the work my kidneys can no longer do has me, to put it mildly, freaked out! Yikes!!
My opinion, for whatever it's worth, is that YES, techs absolutely do need more training than that which you've described here. Because the patient's condition can deteriorate quickly if complications arise, putting their lives in danger, I can't believe this question even needs to be asked. Seems like a giant no-brainer to anyone with two brain cells to rub together
Patient safety is always THE primary concern above all else. These patients are clearly being put in a dangerous at best, and fatal at worst, situation. These clinics are literally begging for trouble. They're taking chances they have no right to take with patients' lives, and it's going to bite them in the butt one of these days, only it'll be the patient will be the one paying for management's bad choices. Those patients and their families aren't even aware of the danger they're in, so they aren't going to insist that the clinic take the needed steps to ensure their safety. This is not a good situation at all.
Something else to be considered in addition to patient safety is the liability of the nurse should a patient suffer a bad outcome. This is a train speeding towards and off a steep cliff, particularly if two or more patients develop serious complications simultaneously.
I'm in full agreement with the nursing organizations on this one. Specialized training, along with keen observation and assessment skills are needed to monitor patients undergoing hemodialysis and keep them safe.
Will patients receive safe care if unlicensed personnel receive additional dialysis training? I'm not fully convinced of that, though any additional training is better than leaving things as they currently are. Using discounted insurance rates to incentivize these clinics to either provide the needed training for their unlicensed personnel or better yet, hire additional licensed nurses is a good place to start.
Thank you all for your insight and comments
It is my hope that nursing led instruction will seed the dialysis technician industry. Dialysis patients are always on the verge of quitting life and just throwing in the towel. It is one day to the next, no let me rephrase that, one hour to the next for those on dialysis. A truly competent and caring dialysis technician can make a difference in the patient's decision to choose hope.
Best of health and well wishes to all you,
Who are nurses? If you were to ask someone to describe a nurse, they may depict them as a young attractive female wearing a figure hugging uniform. But who is the nurse? They are men and women, old and young. They are the ones on the battlefield dodging bullets to tend to the wounded soldier. They are the ones telling the dying patient that they did good and who hold their hand as they take their last breath. They are the ones who make sure all instruments in the operating room are accounted for, both before and after surgery. They are the ones who make sure to protect their patient's rights, dignity, safety, comfort and privacy. They are the ones who hold the newborn baby and make sure that they are safe, warm and ready for the world. They are the ones that begin the chemotherapy for the cancer stricken patient and the ones who make sure that physicians do their job. Most people don't know who we are, because they were too ill to remember. We are the nameless faces who make the world a better place one patient at a time.
Hello All nurses, student nurses and future nurses,
My name is Nancy Kimmel. It's nice to be a part of the family. I am RN, MSN-FNP-BC and am here like many of our other nurses to help if anyone has questions. Nursing is a great field. We are the leaders in patient care, because we care.
Hope to talk to some of you,