May 6, 2024
Heroes in Scrubs: Celebrating the Importance of Nurses in Kidney Care

In the bustling corridors of health care, May heralds more than just blooming flowers and warmer weather: May also marks a poignant celebration of nurses and the role they play in caring for people. Among them, those in kidney care serve as pillars of what’s celebrated, from their compassion to their expertise, to their unwavering dedication to clinical excellence.

Throughout their careers, nephrology nurses manage a broad variety of skilled care: renal treatment therapies, education on modality choices and kidney health management, and support aimed at helping people maintain transplant eligibility. And because dialysis patients typically need multiple treatments each week, their nephrology nurses and care teams can play a significant role in their overall happiness and well-being.

“People who need dialysis often see their nurses three times a week,” Tina Livaudais, chief nursing officer at DaVita, says. “It creates a special connection, and our nurses and care teams are dedicated to building strong relationships with our patients to help them better understand their kidney needs, talk to their doctors about treatment options and better manage their lifestyles.”

Recognizing Outstanding Nursing

Last September, DaVita introduced The Nightingale Award, a new, experiential award to recognize nurses from across the country and from different areas of patient care throughout the organization. Jan and Helen were among the 12 award recipients who were celebrated for their strong contributions and leadership.

This award was intentionally built to encourage our nurses to focus on their own health by refilling their cup with an experiential award. Winners will be able to choose from select experience packages like a self-care weekend getaway or they can create their own experience.

“Our nurses go above and beyond every day to deliver high-quality care to our patients,” Livaudais says. “We are thrilled to continuously celebrate our teammates (DaVita employees), who serve as role models to their teams to deliver strong clinical results and live our commitment to patient experience.”

With more than 50 years of nursing experience, there hasn’t been much that Jan Leadbetter, hasn’t seen. Nearly two decades ago, she was a part of opening a DaVita dialysis center in Centralia, WA, and in that time, Jan has gone out of her way to get to know the patients she and her team serve.

“We laugh a lot,” Jan said. “We get to know the patients and joke with them. I love that we have fun. I have a Santa hat with lights on it, and I like to pick out hats for the patients that suit their personality. We celebrate birthdays.”

But it’s not Jan’s big laugh and warm sense of humor that earned her the nickname, “The Warden.” She got that for her no-nonsense approach to patient care, and she leans into the close relationships she and her team have with patients to ensure they’re getting the care they need.

“We have to do what we can to help keep patients accountable for their own health,” Jan said. “If patients miss treatments, I’ll write them letters personally. Tell ’em the facts of life.”

Whether it’s in letters, conversations or other education, Jan makes sure that she’s meeting patients where they are. She’s committed to helping them understand exactly how important their choices — whether it’s not missing treatments or staying on top of their kidney-friendly diet — are in taking care of themselves.

For Jan, her career has been marked by appreciating teams and organizations that live their values — such as integrity — to make patient care the top priority.

“It’s important that we foster a culture that empowers our teammates,” Livaudais says. “Our values, how we think about care, the ways in which we connect with each other — we want to make sure this is an environment where we can thrive together, especially as we think about how that ripples out to creating a positive patient experience.”

For Helen Hargrove, working in nephrology nursing has given her the opportunity to explore different aspects of kidney care. With more than 30 years of nephrology nursing experience, Helen joined DaVita to get involved with home dialysis care. “I realized I had to be a part of it,” Helen says of working in a peritoneal dialysis (PD) program.

A needle-free dialysis treatment option that best replicates natural kidney function, PD offers more flexibility by allowing patients to dialyze from the comfort of their own home. For Helen, that aligns with her belief in patient-centered care.

Helen now works in DaVita Integrated Kidney Care (IKC), which focuses on coordinated care for patients to address holistic care needs, not just kidney health.

When it comes to patient health, Helen and her team are cheerleaders and collaborators. When asked about a favorite part of her role, Helen cites the teamwork she sees between nurses on behalf of patients.

“I love seeing the connections between our nurses in IKC as they teach [others] what we do and how we can help, which in turn teaches the patients.”

But most meaningful to Helen is the close relationships she develops with patients and their families.

“[Recently], I got a call from a patient’s mother telling me she got a transplant. A lot of my patients do that. They’ll call to tell me. Sometimes they’ll call from the admitting room to tell me they’re about to get the transplant! I love it. Improving their lives improves my life.”

To hear more about Jan and Helen’s stories shared in their own words, visit