By: Doris Harrison, RN CKD/Transplant Specialist
Approximately 14 years ago, I began my career in the medical field working within a kidney transplant clinic as a medical assistant. At first, I was not sure if this was where I would stay, I was hoping to work in the hospital with newborn babies, but God had another plan for me. I love working in the medical field and helping patients is very rewarding. At the kidney transplant center, I was able to see firsthand how organ donation changed their lives and how grateful and loving these patients are for another chance at life. It was a very fulfilling career, and I loved it.
Unfortunately, in 2011, the transplant center where I worked was forced to close, and I transitioned over to the Nephrology department within the same facility. In 2012, I accepted a job with a non-profit dialysis organization, Dialysis Clinic, Inc. in Jacksonville, FL. Here, I continued to work with kidney disease patients and even started providing education to patients on understanding kidney disease. In 2013, I planned a community health fair event to raise awareness on kidney disease and its risk factors; we had a good turnout. At this point, I knew I wanted to continue caring for kidney disease patients, and I also wanted to do something more to help them. I decided to return to school and pursue a nursing degree. I was a single mom raising two boys and worked full-time, so, needless to say, it took a little longer than anticipated but in 2016, I finally became a nurse.
I continue to work with Dialysis Clinic, Inc., as a CKD/Transplant Specialist and continue efforts to promote awareness with community outreach projects, provide education, advocate, care, and offer hope to patients with kidney disease.
This year, I helped to form a kidney disease support group. Many patients who come to the clinic feel all alone. I wanted patients to sit down and really talk to each other and share their stories and experiences so they could see that they are not alone. At the support group, we have patients who are newly diagnosed, as well as those on dialysis and those who have had a transplant. It is nice for them to all come together and see the full circle of a kidney patient. When I decided to start a support group, I reached out to AAKP for help. AAKP has resources available to get support groups up and running such as a listing on their website, a guide to help you start a group and free educational materials.
Some other unique things we do at our clinic to help patients are educational boards and lobby days. The educational boards are done monthly. At first patients just thought they were pretty – a nice decoration on the wall at the clinic. But now, patients look for the educational tips and advice we provide. The boards might discuss how to watch your fluid or give tips on potassium intake.
Our lobby days take place a few times a year. Our last lobby day was all about transplantation. One of our “alumni” came back to the clinic for the event, a 74-year-old transplant patient who self-advocated and found a living donor. This was helpful for patients to see someone at his age be successful at finding a donor on his own and getting a transplant. Patients said, “well, if he can do it, then maybe I can too.” It’s always a stronger message when they hear it from an actual patient than when they hear it from a doctor or someone on the staff.
Last summer, I was able to attend AAKP’s National Patient Meeting. The meeting was held in St, Petersburg, FL, which was driving distance from Jacksonville. I had no idea what to expect at the meeting– but it was amazing! I was able to get a ton of information, as well as make new connections and get continuing education credits. When I got back to the clinic, I used some of the videos I had taken of the sessions at the AAKP meeting to inspire patients about new innovations and technology that is being developed for kidney patients. Additionally, I have kept in touch with one of the attendees I met at the AAKP meeting – this person continues to inspire me because he is always attending community events and always advocating for patients. His name is Bob Abbott and he is a Life member of AAKP. I recently told him, “I want to be like you!”
I hope to continue to do whatever I can to help kidney patients as long as God allows.
This article was originally published in aakpRENALIFE, July 2019.