Helping you live a better life on dialysis

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NephrologistThe definition of a  nephrologist is a doctor who has had special training in kidney diseases. Also called renal physicians, nephrologists must first graduate from college and medical school, and then complete training as a resident in internal medicine, and a fellowship in nephrology. Nephrology fellowship programs must be accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education and usually take 2 to 3 years to complete. Nephrologists must pass the American Board of Internal Medicine certification examination.  Every state requires nephrologists to be licensed to practice.

Your nephrologist is the point person for your dialysis care team. He or she prescribes the treatment, monitors your health, and makes any needed changes to your treatments, based on how they are affecting you.

People on dialysis should see their nephrologist often, either at the office or at the dialysis center. Some patients prefer to set up an office visit every month or two so they can talk about their concerns in private.

The nephrologist can answer medical questions that you and your support team may have. Please ask questions:

  • The nephrologist will not think poorly of you if you ask a question.
  • The nephrologist will not be harsh in his/her answer.
  • You’re not taking up too much of the doctor’s time.
  • The doctor won’t think you don’t trust him/her if you question him or her.
  • Write down your questions so you will remember them when you are in the doctor’s office.
  • If you do not understand the medical terms in the doctor’s answer, tell him or her to explain in simpler terms until you understand.

The more you pursue answers to your questions, the better informed you will be. The better informed you are, the more control you will feel over your kidney disease.

It is true that renal physicians are busy and have limited time to spend with each patient. But remember that you have a right to expect that your doctor will spend the time you need answering your questions and listening to your ideas and concerns about how your treatment is working for you.

Choosing a Nephrologist 

What Does the Word “Nephrologist” Mean?

  • Nephro is a Greek word meaning kidney.
  • The ending, logist, is defines as a specialist.

A nephrologist is a kidney specialist.

How do you choose a nephrologist? Your choice in a renal physician may be very easy if there is only one kidney specialist in your area, or if a doctor you trust refers you to a nephrologist. Your choices may also depend on your insurance plan’s list. What is most important with a chronic disease, like kidney failure, is that you find a doctor who can explain things to you in a way that you understand.

The disease will never go away, so you must be able to take part in your care and help make medical decisions. To do this, you need a good working relationship with your doctor. Some people are very surprised to learn that all doctors are not the same! Sometimes one doctor’s personality can be a better fit for you than another’s, even if they both have the same medical knowledge. It is okay to change doctors to find one who can work well with you.

Ask your doctor if he or she is “board certified” in nephrology. This means that he or she passed a test to become a specialist in kidney disease.

Content from Kidney School, a program of the Medical Education Institute, Inc.

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