3/24/06 - Nephrology Nurses' Education Campaign Helps Win Support in Washington for Better Dialysis Care

March 16, 2006

Contact: Linda Alexander

856-256-2300, ext. 2411 • linda@ajj.com


Nephrology Nurses’ Education Campaign Helps

Win Support in Washington for Better Dialysis Care

Each year, the American Nephrology Nurses’ Association educates legislators across the country during “ESRD Education Week.” Their hard work is paying off.

Pitman, NJ – Leaders of the American Nephrology Nurses’ Association (ANNA) realized several years ago that the way to get better care for kidney patients on life-saving dialysis was to bring United States legislators right to the nerve center of their operations: the dialysis units.

The nurses knew once the lawmakers saw the challenges patients face daily and the trickle-down effects of legislation involving kidney disease, they would be better equipped to vote on important measures that affect the lives of patients with kidney disease. So ANNA launched a national campaign about end stage renal disease (ESRD), “ESRD Education Week.” To date, the nurses have educated hundreds of state and federal legislators about kidney disease and treatments, Medicare reimbursement and key bills awaiting their votes in Congress.

Their efforts helped pave the way for a recent vote by the House of Representatives to approve a one-year, 1.6 percent composite rate inflation adjustment for 2006 within the Medicare reconciliation package for dialysis services. The increase will help cover higher costs for caregivers, lab tests and other services.

“The House’s decision was a crucial step in the right direction,” said ESRD Week Project Coordinator Kathleen Kuchta, BSN, RN. “It shows that ESRD Week has helped lawmakers understand much more about the disease and the need to update legislation. Their support will make a dramatic difference for our patients, our nursing profession and the renal community.”

Kuchta said the nurses’ work is not done; they will continue to educate policymakers this year about key bills that are still pending. The 2006 ESRD Week is set for August 7-11, 2006, and if legislators cannot visit dialysis units that week, organizers make sure to accommodate their schedules by arranging visits throughout the year. More information about ESRD Week is available on ANNA’s Web site, www.annanurse.org, “Events.”

About ESRD Week

During the ESRD tours, nurses describe daily operations of a dialysis unit, outline the role of nurses and the entire multidisciplinary care team, discuss kidney disease and treatment and provide information about the number of treatment facilities and patients served in the legislators’ districts. In addition, nurses speak with the lawmakers and their staff members about the effects of the nursing shortage and other challenges facing the renal community.

To supplement the tours of the dialysis facilities, legislators also receive ANNA’s ESRD Briefing Book for State and Federal Policymakers. The booklet presents the basics of ESRD in lay terms and includes information on underlying conditions such as diabetes and hypertension. Statistics on incidence and treatment costs are also presented.

The ESRD campaign is now in its fourth year, and has been a success from the beginning. Last year, policymakers or their aides visited 57 facilities in 24 states. In 2006, the nurses will continue to focus on the “Kidney Care Quality and Improvement Act” (S.635/H.R.1298) as it winds its way through the House and Senate. The bill, which was introduced in March 2005, addresses many key issues including reimbursement. It also advances quality care to Americans with kidney disease before they suffer complete organ failure and increases awareness in local communities.

Legislators have acknowledged that reimbursement for dialysis treatment has not kept pace with the rest of Medicare and that the existing ESRD program won’t be able to support the projected increase in patients unless it is reformed.

“Nephrology nurses have a great deal of knowledge to share with legislators about the way dialysis treatment is provided in our country,” said ANNA President Suzann VanBuskirk, BSN, RN, CNN. “ESRD Education Week is a perfect opportunity to bring lawmakers into the clinical setting so they can experience firsthand the procedures and care that our patients on dialysis receive.”

In 2005, ANNA was named to the Associations Advance America Honor Roll for its ESRD Education Week campaign. The Honor Roll is a national awards competition sponsored by the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE), in Washington, DC, honoring organizations that help advance American society through innovative projects.

ANNA is also a member of Kidney Care Partners (KCP), a nationwide alliance of patient advocates, dialysis professionals, providers and suppliers who work to improve the care of people with kidney failure (www.kidneycarepartners.org). In 2005, KCP asked to collaborate with ANNA on ESRD Week, as did the DaVita Patient Citizens, the Renal Physicians Associations (RPA), and WeKan, a patient activist group. Kuchta said the collaboration with these organizations expanded the campaign’s reach, and she expects an even greater response from legislators in the future.

About 20 million Americans suffer from kidney disease. Of those patients, over 400,000 experience kidney failure. The rising numbers of people with kidney disease, many of whom are minorities, is attributed in part to the country’s obesity epidemic, an alarming trend that has led to more cases of diabetes and high blood pressure. Both of these diseases are major contributors to kidney failure.

For more information about ESRD Week or to download the ESRD booklet, visit ANNA’s Web site, www.annanurse.org.


ANNA is a professional nursing association with over 12,000 members. Its mission is to advance nephrology nursing practice and positively influence outcomes for patients with kidney disease processes requiring replacement therapies

through advocacy, scholarship and excellence.