Edmonton·Audio

Edmonton nursing grad aims to empower home dialysis patients

Rita Iradukunda is a recent nursing grad from the University of Alberta. She was invited to Germany to do a presentation on her home dialysis research project.

Research looks at emotional and psychological aspects of dialysis

University of Alberta nursing grad Rita Iradukunda was invited to Germany to present on her research based on interviews with Alberta home dialysis patients. (Abdul)

Dialysis is important to keep your body in balance when your kidneys fail. But for those who are doing dialysis at home day after day, there's more than your body to be concerned about — there can also be psychological effects. 

Rita Iradukunda is a recent nursing grad from the University of Alberta. She did a research project on the surveys patients fill out, looking at the emotional and psychological aspects of home dialysis. One of the goals of the project is to have doctors and nurses use the data as a way of starting a conversation during follow-up visits to the clinic.

"They wanted it to be a conversation-starter," said Iradukunda, in an interview on CBC Edmonton's Radio Active on Tuesday. "Asking them, 'so how are you doing? I noticed that you put three-out-of-five under depression. Can you tell me more about it?' Then the patient is not just quantified. They don't look at them as numbers but they're also being given an opportunity to express themselves and they feel valued."

The research of U of A graduate nurse Rita Iradukunda can improve home dialysis patient outcomes. 8:07

Patients become their own advocates

Born in Burundi, Iradukunda just completed her fourth and final year as an undergraduate honours student at the U of A's Faculty of Nursing, and will be attending her convocation from the U of A this week.

When she first started doing her research, Iradukunda, through her mentor and supervisor assistant professor Kara Schick-Makaroff, had the opportunity to sit-in on a committee made up of patients who express their perspectives on their experiences when they go to their clinic appointments.

The patients complete surveys, called patient-reported outcomes, every three months.

Schick-Makaroff's research project, funded by the Canadian Institute of Health, seeks to find out how these electronic patient-reported outcomes are being used, with data from home dialysis patients across Alberta.

Research shows that it is not fully used by clinicians.

Iradukunda found that patients want each survey to be used to paint a bigger picture of their health, over time.  

"They mentioned that one way to use this data is to create some kind of trend, because it's a long-term illness that they're having," said Iradukunda. "They'll be on dialysis for so long sometimes. Of course, there will be some who get an opportunity to get a transplant, but they have to know how to take care of themselves. They need to know, 'Am I making progress in my care? The new treatment that we started, is it working or not?' So by having this trend they'll be able to compare previous information to the new information."

The purpose of Iradukunda's project was to promote the patient-centered care approach, where the patient is involved in their care.

"The patient will become one's own advocate if they know what's going on, if they know how to better take care of themselves," said Iradukunda.

Her research results got her invited to an international conference in Germany. The second World Congress on Undergraduate Research took place May 23-25. 

She applied to the conference to get feedback on her research on an international level and was honoured when she was accepted as an oral presenter.

"That was a huge opportunity for me," she said. "We had already completed the first phase and I saw how impactful this was. And I was very lucky to see that even those people who were judging all the submissions of the abstracts, they also noticed the importance of this research."

The first phase was to take the information from the patients, back to the clinicians.

Next, they will be interviewing some of the patients to see if there has been any improvement in their clinic visits.

About the Author

Thandiwe Konguavi is an award-winning journalist, born in Zimbabwe. She is an associate producer and reporter at CBC Edmonton. Reach her at thandiwe.konguavi@cbc.ca or on Twitter @TandiwayK (https://twitter.com/TandiwayK).

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