Renal Social Workers
A diagnosis of chronic or end stage kidney disease can be overwhelming to patients and can bring unexpected challenges. Renal social workers are highly trained individuals who provide a support system for patients and their families as they adjust to and learn about kidney disease, dialysis or a kidney transplant. The renal social worker is the patient’s advocate and provides a conduit for communicating with other members of the treatment team. Renal social workers work with the treatment team, and by presenting a full picture of all the patient’s needs, can help ensure that the best decisions are made regarding the patient’s overall health, well-being, and quality of life.
Renal social worker responsibilities include but are not limited to:
- Meeting with the patient and family to evaluate needs and provide referrals, as needed
- Helping patients and their family understand kidney disease, dialysis and kidney transplantation
- Emphasizing the importance of a strong support system that includes family and other individuals
- Discussing emotional needs and aiding in the development of coping mechanisms
- Offering supportive counseling
- Helping patients apply for financial assistance if needed
- Providing assistance with keeping or obtaining insurance coverage
- Offering guidance on adjusting to treatment plans, including dietary changes
- Facilitating vocational rehabilitation services and/or offering support for maintaining employment, attending school, and continuing with activities that bring personal enjoyment
- Identifying local resources for transportation, home health services or other needs
The University of Virginia Nutrition Services provides registered dietitians (RD) for all aspects of our patients’ kidney disease care. Inpatient RDs assist as needed with any nutrition-related issues for acute kidney injury or chronic kidney disease during hospitalization. In our outpatient clinics, dietitians are available for nutrition education for chronic disease kidney, diabetes, hypertension and any comorbid conditions that can be improved with healthy eating. Each dialysis unit has designated dietitians that are available each week for nutrition counseling, monthly lab review and rounds, and for any individualized nutrition needs for patients receiving in-center hemodialysis. Home hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis patients will have a designated RD to support them at home and see them at appointments each month in our outpatient clinic and at other times as needed.