Breaking Down Barriers to Kidney Care: A Social Worker’s Story

Breaking Down Barriers to Kidney Care: A Social Worker’s Story


Our social workers take on several critical roles in supporting people with chronic kidney disease (CKD) throughout their patient journey. Their assistance for people living with CKD includes one-on-one discussions, referrals to peer mentors or support groups, solving transportation problems, and more.

Sonia Bhimani, our senior manager of social work services for the Gulf Coast and Midwest, is well-versed in supporting patients at every stage of their journey. The seasoned social worker currently manages a team in Houston and South Texas, and though she no longer interfaces directly with patients, she fondly remembers her years working directly with them. It was life-changing for people to begin dialysis, especially for those who crashed into dialysis, not knowing they had CKD.

“It's a change of normal for them,” Bhimani says. “They’re used to having very independent lives and being able to make decisions for themselves. That changes abruptly when they come to dialysis.” She continues, “Our goal at the end of the day is to help empower our patients and support them as best we can in their continued care.”

Like many of her patients, Bhimani didn’t foresee a future career that involved dialysis. She had previously worked at a psychiatric hospital and in family services, but recalls that “there wasn’t a lot of ability to see a person progress.” She wanted to work in clinical care where she could help patients throughout their journey. By moving to dialysis care, Bhimani was able to develop ongoing relationships with patients to support them along their journey, giving her and her patients more consistency and continuity while working within a larger team.


Working Collaboratively

Being part of a team to understand each patient's needs and determine how to best support them in their journey is part of what Bhimani loves about being a social worker.

“I think, for me, the best part of working in a facility setting was being part of the care team,” Bhimani says. She notes that care teams are comprised of many highly qualified individuals with different areas of expertise who come together to provide holistic patient support. Teams can include a nephrologist, nurse, dietitian, Kidney Care Advocate, patient care technician, social worker, and more.

Care teams meet regularly to review patient records and plan treatment together. Bhimani was always ready for these check-ins, saying, “Even though at times I had a high case load, I knew exactly what was happening with each one of my patients.”


Finding Solutions When Problems Arise

Social workers like Bhimani often support patients by removing barriers to care and helping them thrive on dialysis. She recounts helping a patient overcome transportation obstacles by breaking the problem into manageable chunks to tackle. After several months, the patient not only had reliable transportation to dialysis, but also had applied Bhimani’s tips and techniques to navigate their insurance needs.

In another instance, Bhimani and her care team realized a patient consistently missed one day a week of dialysis, which was affecting their overall health. Upon digging deeper with the patient, she discovered they were responsible for the care of their nieces and nephews on that day. This was just one of many examples Bhimani witnessed when a patient’s personal life conflicted with treatment, and she used a mix of compassion and professional resources to work with the patient to find solutions. Patients have full lives outside of dialysis, and it’s important to recognize that and work with them when life gets in the way.

As Bhimani says, “We don't want to be the ones that are just telling our patients what to do—we want to be partners with our patients to help cohesively work together to attain the goals that we have identified.”

To join Sonia Bhimani and our team, explore current opportunities at jobs.fmcna.com

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