Ananda has a clear memory of the day her little brother Josh was born. She was 14, and her new sibling had arrived several weeks premature – circumstances that caused cerebral palsy. Through the years, Ananda witnessed Josh’s struggles, as well as the procedures and perseverance that helped him overcome his disabilities, and eventually start a family of his own. But beyond her brother’s courage, something that had a lasting impact was the way Josh’s nurses addressed his every need.
“I remember watching how they took care of him,” recalls Ananda. “I had always loved caring for others, and seeing that made me feel like I could do something to help people.”
Ananda is now 44, and for the last 18 years she’s been living her dream. First as a nurse on the hospital floor and – more recently – caring for home hemodialysis patients at
Fresenius Kidney Care in Gainesville, Florida. With Nephrology Nurses Week approaching, we took time to chat with Ananda about her work and the passion behind it.
“It’s the most fulfilling thing I’ve done in my life besides having children and a family,” she says. “I feel like I make a difference in peoples’ lives, and that’s a big thing for me.” Throughout 13 years in the hospital environment, Ananda worked in nursery, labor and delivery, the newborn intensive care unit, emergency room, and other departments. She loved the work, but in 2014 a friend and fellow nurse took a position in nephrology, which she described as “the jewel of nursing.” Ananda decided to follow in her colleague’s footsteps.
“I feel like I make a difference in peoples’ lives, and that’s a big thing for me”
As a new clinic staff nurse for Fresenius Kidney Care, Ananda was immediately impressed with the skills of her coworkers and “how everyone worked as a family.” But most exciting to her was the increased interaction with her patients. Whereas most hospital admissions were discharged after three or four days, as a nephrology nurse Ananda sees her patients often and regularly. That means she can play a bigger part in their care and see them progress.
“There was a younger guy struggling to stay on track,” Amanda recalls from her days in-center. “But I showed him why he needed to do certain things to feel better. He started
making it to all his treatments and staying on his meds, and he was in the hospital less and less. Many people can feel better if they understand what they need to do better.”
With her sights set on helping patients live and feel their best, in 2019 Ananda took another step in her nephrology nursing career. She switched from the clinic floor to the
home hemodialysis (HHD) team. In her new role, she trains dialysis patients how to do more frequent HHD, giving them the freedom to do therapy at home. Her home program
currently has 20 HHD patients and she says she is inspired by how well they do with more frequent therapy.
“This is a story that I tell most of my new patients,” Ananda says excitedly. “I love this story and this patient. It was my first time training someone for HHD by myself, and my patient had been in-center for 14 years. He had a new grandson and he wanted to try HHD so he could help babysit. After two weeks he came to me and said, ‘Ananda, I feel good! I don’t have to take a nap after treatments anymore. I can go home and mow the lawn or play with my grandkids!’”
Ananda says she has heard similar success stories from other more frequent HHD patients, and that the home dialysis program in Gainesville is growing. Recently, the center started a new program called SMART trainings, which allows for a small group of patients to train for more frequent HHD together.
SMART trainings are done five days a week for two consecutive weeks. Supported by NxStage, the sessions offer an interactive, comprehensive, and fun curriculum that helps
put patients at ease and build a sense of community. Ananda says she and her team use repetition and games to help participants absorb the materials and instruction.
“They did great,” says Ananda, complimenting her first SMART group. “They learned a lot from each other, and that was the coolest thing – to see them create these bonds with
“They learned a lot from each other, and that was the coolest thing – to see them create these bonds with one another”
Once patients are trained and doing therapy at home, Ananda says it’s extremely rewarding to see them get parts of their lives back. One of her patients has five children under the age of 16 and was unable to travel while doing in-center dialysis because she couldn’t leave the kids to do therapy in a clinic away from home.
“She came to me and asked if she could take her HHD machine on vacation,” Ananda recalls. “And once I told her she could, she planned a trip. They just packed up and went to the beach for a week. It’s huge for people to have that autonomy so they can live their best lives. And that’s important to me too.”
Besides training and guidance, Ananda says a big part of her day to day is providing support. Sometimes, that means offering a sense of calm and reassurance. But on other
days it means being a cheerleader, like the day she was literally jumping up and down for a patient who had just learned to self-cannulate.
“I think if you’re looking at a career in nursing, nephrology is definitely something to consider,” says Ananda. “It really is a jewel of nursing. If you want that continuity with patients, then you will probably love it. It makes it worthwhile to come to work every day, knowing that you’re making a difference.”
Not all patients may experience these benefits