Kidney Care Advocates Empower Patients through Education

Kidney Care Advocates Empower Patients through Education

Danielle Crotsley, Associate Kidney Care Advocate (KCA) for Central New York, believes things happen for a reason. That’s why she decided to investigate a job opening at Fresenius Kidney Care after twice running into a former colleague who recommended she apply. “I just figured it was fate,” recalls Crotsley.

Crotsley enjoyed working as a dialysis nurse for more than nine years and hadn’t intended to make a change but decided to apply after reading the job description that seemed like a perfect fit. As a KCA, Crotsley’s primary job would be educating people recently diagnosed with chronic kidney disease (CKD) on how their kidneys function, how to best manage their kidney disease, and what treatment options are available should they need to start dialysis, particularly home hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis. After interviewing for the role, she was offered a position and began as a KCA in April 2020 — and is thrilled she did.

An Advocate in a Critical Time

As a KCA, Crotsley plays a vital role for newly diagnosed CKD patients. She is a primary point of contact who provides essential education and support during an often challenging time for people with renal disease. Crotsley helps people with renal disease navigate their new reality that may include needing to prepare for dialysis. This life-changing process is difficult to understand and KCAs like Crotsley provide an initial touch point to help people with CKD understand what’s happening in their bodies, how to manage their health, and what treatments are available should they need to start dialysis or consider a transplant. “Kidney disease is scary, and it helps so much to have someone to help walk these patients through the journey of preparing for dialysis step by step,” says Crotsley.

Crotsley receives regular referrals from physicians for new patients with stage 4 or 5 CKD. Within two days of receiving the referral, she reaches out to the new patient to set up an hour-long kidney disease education class to go over CKD basics and what to expect as they continue their kidney care journey. She’ll stay in touch with regular check-ins and answer any questions as the person identifies a treatment modality that best fits their lifestyle. Once the individual has started dialysis, they will work with their care team for ongoing education and support.

She notes that people with a new CKD diagnosis often have more questions than their nephrologist can answer in a typical 15-minute appointment. “They’ll ask, ‘Well, what do you mean my kidneys are failing?’ Our role is really to give a class and teach them what is going on in their body, what can they do to help themselves, and what treatment options are available.”

As a former dialysis nurse, Crotsley feels well-suited to answering patients’ questions and helping them understand how their kidneys function. She notes, however, that being a nurse isn’t a prerequisite for becoming a KCA. Some of her colleagues have worked as patient care technicians, social workers, dietitians, and more. At Fresenius Kidney Care, the most important qualification is being an educator, a point of contact, and a source of encouragement and support.   

The Impact of a Job Well Done

Crotsley has seen the results of working closely with people with kidney disease in the early stages of their diagnosis. She recalls a patient who was headed toward renal failure but wasn’t ready to start dialysis. After learning more about eating well and the importance of a kidney-friendly diet during a class with Crotsley, the patient took that information and talked to his doctor. He began a new diet and exercise plan that helped him lose 30 pounds. That weight loss helped to postpone dialysis for several additional months. Those extra months gave him time to prepare mentally for dialysis with regular check-ins from Crotsley. When it was time to start dialysis, he was prepared. “He was not scared, and he knew what he wanted because I helped him get ready ahead of time,” Crotsley says. “He is now successfully receiving dialysis at home.”

The patients Crotsley educates are often grateful for her help, and she has received notes of thanks from patients who have started dialysis on a modality that works best for them after taking her classes. One patient sent a holiday note that read, “Well, it has been five months since you helped us through everything, I just wanted to wish you a happy Thanksgiving. I hope you and your family are doing well.”

While Crotsley never thought she would leave her former role as a dialysis nurse, she’s happy to be in her current position — and that she took the leap of faith and applied when she did. She’s already seen the opportunity for career growth and can envision a bright future. “I see myself sticking with Fresenius Kidney Care,” she says. “It’s a great company.”

If you’d like to join Crotsley and help people with kidney disease, visit to explore opportunities.

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