U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Working with Your Health Care Providers

You will work with many types of health care providers to treat your kidney disease. Be sure to talk with your providers about your care and any problems you may be having. You may even want to keep a running list of questions that you can take with you to your next health care visit.

Below is a description of different types of health care providers you may see and the role that they play in your treatment.

Primary Care Provider

(Doctor, nurse practitioner, physician assistant) – The primary care provider is the person you see for routine medical visits, including management of chronic conditions, such as diabetes and high blood pressure. A primary care provider will likely keep managing your kidney disease care, especially early in the disease process. He or she can monitor the kidneys, prescribe the medicines needed, and continue to monitor and treat your conditions. Your primary care provider may refer you to others for specialized care.


A nephrologist is a doctor who is a kidney specialist. You may be referred to a nephrologist if you have a complicated case of kidney disease, your kidney disease is progressing quickly, or your kidney disease is at an advanced stage. You may be treated by both the primary care provider and the nephrologist. If your kidneys fail, you will work closely with the nephrologist for treatment.

Registered Dietitian

A dietitian is a food and nutrition expert who teaches people how to change what they eat for any number of conditions. Dietitians can help you by creating an eating plan based on how your kidneys are doing. “Renal dietitians” often work in dialysis centers and are specially trained to work with people with kidney failure.


A nurse may help with your treatment and is likely to teach you about kidney disease monitoring and treatment, as well as self-management for one or more of your conditions. Some nurses are specialists in kidney disease with additional training and experience.

Diabetes Educator

A diabetes educator is an expert at helping people with diabetes gain knowledge and self-management skills needed to take care of themselves and their diabetes, and any problems that may result from diabetes. Your diabetes educator may also be a dietitian, nurse, pharmacist, or physician.


A pharmacist is trained to prepare, distribute, and educate patients about medicines. Pharmacists check for possible drug interactions or side effects from prescribed medicines for people with kidney disease. Pharmacists also may help keep track of how well the medicines you are taking are working.

Renal Social Worker

A renal social worker may work for a chronic kidney disease management program or in a dialysis center. A renal social worker's job is to help people (and their families) deal with the life changes that come with having kidney disease and kidney failure. A renal social worker can also help people with kidney failure apply for financial assistance to cover the cost of treatment.

This content is provided as a service of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), part of the National Institutes of Health. The NIDDK translates and disseminates research findings through its clearinghouses and education programs to increase knowledge and understanding about health and disease among patients, health professionals, and the public. Content produced by the NIDDK is carefully reviewed by NIDDK scientists and other experts.

This information is not copyrighted. The NIDDK encourages people to share this content freely.

March 1, 2012

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