My job

I always ask myself: ‘Have we given it our best shot?’

Nicola Thomas – the first UK nurse with a renal specialty to be appointed professor of kidney care at London South Bank University – is on a mission to change the way health professionals manage the care of people who have mild to moderate kidney disease.
Nicola Thomas

Nicola Thomas the first UK nurse with a renal specialty to be appointed professor of kidney care at London South Bank University is on a mission to change the way health professionals manage the care of people who have mild to moderate kidney disease

What is your role?

I have recently been appointed to a professorial role at London South Bank University so my job includes clinical practice, education and research.

As the first UK nurse with a renal specialty to be appointed professor of kidney care, what do you hope to achieve in your new role?

The most important aspect of my role is improving the care of people who have kidney disease by focusing on the issues which matter to them, such as the effects

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Nicola Thomas – the first UK nurse with a renal specialty to be appointed
professor of kidney care at London South Bank University – is on a mission
to change the way health professionals manage the care of people who have mild to moderate kidney disease


Nicola Thomas, professor of kidney care at London South Bank University

What is your role?

I have recently been appointed to a professorial role at London South Bank University so my job includes clinical practice, education and research. 

As the first UK nurse with a renal specialty to be appointed professor of kidney care, what do you hope to achieve in your new role?

The most important aspect of my role is improving the care of people who have kidney disease by focusing on the issues which matter to them, such as the effects of kidney disease on family life, employment and holidays.

It is also crucial that we concentrate our efforts on promoting self-management so that people at risk of progressive kidney disease can understand how best to look after themselves.

I am involved in the education of staff and patients and their families across the East London Community Kidney Service. The aim is to ensure that practice nurses are aware of how to identify and manage people who have early signs of kidney disease, as well as educating patients and their families to understand how they can help themselves to slow down the rate of kidney damage.

Why is it significant?

We are still seeing people referred to secondary care who are either referred late (within three months of needing dialysis) or have a history of care that could have been better. For example, management of high blood pressure or uncontrolled blood sugar.

Where did you train?

At the Royal London Hospital. I have a BSc (Hons) in nursing from the University of Surrey, a master’s degree in education and a doctorate in professional practice. 

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I love the variety. One day I am teaching undergraduate nurses about kidney care, another working on my research, and another day I could be facilitating group education sessions for patients and their families. 

My particular interest is involving patients and carers in education and research. When teaching nursing students, I always try to involve patients so they can see the effect that kidney disease has on individuals and their families.

In research, I have worked on several studies where patients themselves have carried out the research alongside healthcare professionals.

What is your greatest challenge?

Changing the way we manage the care of people who have mild to moderate kidney disease. We need to make sure that we know everyone at risk. There is the missing million in the UK who have kidney damage who we don’t know about.

We then need to think about the best way for primary and secondary care colleagues to work together to care for this group. We need to ask important questions such as who is at risk, have we given our best shot in terms of help them self-care, and whether we have referred them in a timely manner.

What nursing achievement makes you most proud?

I have been a volunteer for the European Dialysis and Transplant Nurses Association/European Renal Care Association since the late 1980s, and president of the association between 2000 to 2001. During that period, I influenced the way policy and practice in renal care has developed across Europe. I was also a co-author on a basic undergraduate and post-basic core curriculum for nephrology nursing.

What is likely to affect nurses working in primary care over the next 12 months?

From a kidney care perspective, we need to work together to identify patients at risk. This is particularly important as chronic kidney disease indicators have been recently removed from the quality and outcomes framework.

Nurses could ask their lead GP if there is someone who regularly reviews the coding of people who have chronic kidney disease, and whether they have explained to people what they can do to look after themselves, such as cutting down on salt, knowing what their blood pressure should be and refrain from smoking.

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