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Kidney Disease Education Starts with Practitioner Self-Care

National Kidney Month, which kicked off with the World Kidney Day (WKD) “Kidney Health for All” campaign, is the perfect time for dialysis technicians and other healthcare practitioners to engage in some self-care, with a focus on kidney health.

Here are some self-care ideas that you can also implement with patients at your facility to help bridge the kidney disease education gap.

6 Self-Care Tips to Support Your Kidney Health and Your Practice

1. Look for Unusual Opportunities to Exercise

You don’t need to wear special clothing or use equipment to exercise, nor do you need large chunks of time. If you have a few minutes, try running up and down the stairs, doing squats or stretching. A few minutes here and there can really add up throughout the course of the day.

2. Break Unhealthy Habits

Unwinding with alcohol or a cigarette are typical go-to’s for those with high-stress jobs, but these habits contribute to unhealthy kidneys. It’s easier to educate patients about kidney care, including breaking bad habits, with personal experience.

If your facility doesn't have a smoking cessation program, see if you can start one. Try limiting alcohol consumption to a drink or two on the weekends with friends or family as opposed to a stress reliever after work.

3. Make Simple Dietary Changes

Cutting out sodas or adding more greens to your diet can make a huge difference. Opt for small changes over time and keep them simple.

One of the first ingredients to tackle is sugar, which creates inflammation in the body, raises blood sugar levels, and makes the kidneys work harder. You know this, but it’s easy to grab a granola bar or protein bar when you’re on the go. They’re convenient, but they’re also high in sugar. Instead of pre-packaged snacks, opt for non-processed foods. An apple with a small handful of nuts or plain yogurt with a teaspoon of honey are naturally sweet, satisfying snacks.

Keep your kidneys healthy by staying hydrated. It’s easy to forget to drink water when working a heavy schedule, so keep a large, refillable water bottle with you whenever you can. That way, you can see how much water you’re drinking (or not) each day.

4. Learn Mindfulness for Stress Management

Mindful Based Stress Reduction (MBSR) is the most researched mindfulness training available, which is why so many health practitioners become certified in this approach. You can take the eight-week course for your own benefit or continue to become a certified practitioner. Any mindfulness tips you learn can benefit both your own health and that of your patients when you pass on your knowledge.

5. Get Adequate Sleep

It’s much easier to manage stress and make healthy choices when you are well-rested. Having a nightly routine trains your mind and body that it’s time to power down. Avoid being close up to screens or bright lights as the evening winds down. Bright lights in the evening disrupt melatonin production and therefore make it harder to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Go to bed at the same time every night, if possible, and preferably before 10 p.m. If your schedule permits it, wake up at the same time every morning. If your schedule is prone to change drastically, a five to ten minute power nap in the middle of the day can work wonders.

6. To Measure is to Know.

When did you last check your blood pressure? Fasting blood glucose? We know that diabetes puts a toll on the kidneys. Managing our blood sugar levels is much easier when we measure it regularly. Make sure your patients know how to track and understand these measurements.

Implement Kidney Education at Your Clinic

Consider hiring a health coach to provide group workshops and support groups for both practitioners and patients. You can also start walking and running groups to build camaraderie and accountability. It’s easier for everyone to stay on track when they have peer support.

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