Holly Smith: One nurse’s career path to dialysis

Holly Smith realized her calling as a young girl.

“I was always around my grandparents and I always liked helping them and caring for them,” says Smith, RN, BSN. “I think at a young age, I always liked to care for others in one way, shape, or form.”

Smith began as a certified nursing assistant (CNA) at age 16, using dual credit in high school to become certified. After graduating from college, she did her preceptorship in neurology at the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics. After eight years in neuro, she joined the UI dialysis team in June.

“The great thing about nursing is that you can choose a different career path and a different patient population and learn new skills and expertise,” she says. “I started researching and I chose dialysis because you can build relationships with patients and feel like you're making a lasting difference in a patient's life.”

And changing from being a night shift nurse to the dialysis clinic has meant more time with her children, ages 9, 6, and 9 months old.

Now I work more regular hours so I can live more of a normal lifestyle, I get to spend a lot more time with them and be more involved with their activities.

— Holly Smith, RN, BSN

Dialysis: forging long-term patient relationships

Smith is enjoying a new patient dynamic in the dialysis clinic. In the past, she’d care for patients and maybe never see them again. As a dialysis nurse, she can follow their treatments from beginning to end.

“You can form a relationship and still do the education part and the preventative care and just learn a whole different expertise in nursing,” she says. “That's why I went to dialysis.”

Smith and her co-workers see most patients three times a week; each treatment lasts 3-4 hours.

“You get to reach them on a more personal level,” she says.  

She also enjoys the variety of care in her new role.

“Working in dialysis, you deal with such a wide range. You may have somebody who just needs dialysis short term, because they have acute kidney injury because of illness,” she says. “Or you may treat a chronic patient, someone on a transplant list, or a critically ill patient bedside in the ICU.”

A teamwork approach to patient care

Smith enjoys working with the same small group of nurses in dialysis.

“It's so nice to have those relationships with your coworkers,” she says.  “We all work as a team to get our patients on the machines and their treatments up and going and charted.”

She’s glad she made the leap to dialysis and says her colleagues are amazing.

“You're never alone,” she says. “I feel very supported with my training and education and on the unit. It's just been a great transition and I couldn't be happier.”