Nephrology nurse – her job is about family

This week is Nephrology Nurses Week. Darby Sturtevant talks about how her work includes not only patient care, but also family care.

By T.J. Banes, IU Health Senior Journalist

Darby Sturtevant describes the nephrology world as a small world.

“Patients see the same techs and nurses,” said Sturtevant. She started at IU Health seven years ago working with the transplant program. Five years ago she became a nurse practitioner working with dialysis patients in the outpatient setting.

“When you see the same patients weekly you get to know them and know their families. You hear about grandbabies being born, you see pictures, and you share in their life,” said Sturtevant. Nephrology nurses are trained both in dialysis but also in educating family members and caregivers.

“We work with patients who have a chronic condition and it impacts so much of their life. They spend 12-16 hours a week in the clinic and that doesn’t include how worn out and tired they are when they go home. They are only able to live normal lives a few days a week and then there are so many restrictions with diet and exercise,” said Sturtevant, who grew up in Fishers. She is married to Sam Hunter. They have one daughter, Coralyn Hunter, 2, and are expecting a second child in January.

“Nephrology sort of chose me. I loved working with transplant patients and seeing an immediate result –patients switching from being sick to becoming healthy,” said Sturtevant. She hadn’t seen the other side of kidney disease until she shadowed another nurse. She estimates she has 120 patients that she sees weekly.

The American Nephrology Nurses Association (ANNA) designates the second full week in September at “Nephrology Nurses Week.” It’s a time to recognize nurses who are dedicated to caring for patients with kidney disease. Nephrology nursing is a specialty, and can be taught on the job.

“The nephrology nurses are the backbone of nephrology care for our patients,” said IU Health Dr. Brent W. Miller, clinical chief of nephrology. “They manage the care of very difficult conditions. The quality of the physician I am is directly related to the quality of our nephrology nurses.”