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LC Alum McMichael Helps Home Dialysis Patients

Article by: Scott Marion, the Telegraph, scott.marion@edwpub.net

EDWARDSVILLE — Shawna McMichael has made a career out of helping other people, and she and her medical team from Washington University are keeping it up during the COVID-19 pandemic.

McMichael, an Edwardsville resident, is a nurse manager in the Division of Nephrology at Washington University School of Medicine. She oversees the daily operations of the largest academic home dialysis program in the nation. During the pandemic, she has helped create telehealth visits to replace face-to-face visits for home dialysis patients.

“We cover a 130-mile radius and oversee patients’ care by training them to do dialysis at home,” McMichael said. “After they learn to do that, we see them on a monthly basis, so they will come to St. Louis and see their physician as well as a nurse, a dialysis tech, dietician and a social worker.

“These patients deal with chronic illness and dialysis is lifesaving. It can be scary, and our job is to make sure that we build their confidence up. We want to make them feel better and be able to do dialysis in the comfort of their own home. We oversee their care until they do get a kidney transplant if that’s what their wish is.”

When cases of coronavirus increased in Missouri and Illinois and both states issued stay-at-home orders, McMichael had to initiate and institute a rapid transition to telehealth visits.

McMichael and her team are now using FaceTime and Zoom since they are approved means of communication under the recent changes in telehealth regulations.

“Everybody’s life has been changed due to COVID-19 and the medical field is no different,” McMichael said. “We had to find a way to keep our patients at home and safe while still delivering the same level of care.

“For the most part, I think our patients were scared to leave the house. We connect with them once a month and all our patients have their nurses’ cell phone numbers. We’re always readily available for them, but it’s nice to connect with them on video and see how they are doing.”

While the patients are no longer traveling to St. Louis for their monthly visits, McMichael feels that the telehealth sessions are still providing a personal touch.

“We’re usually saying ‘hi’ to the family dog because we know the dog’s name at this point,” McMichael said. “We’re like family and they get to know us very well.”

McMichael salutes her coworkers for providing the extra level of care.

“My staff is amazing and some of them have done home dialysis for 40-plus years,” McMichael said. “We’ve all had to adapt to a new way of life and we’re all in this together and we’re going to get through this together.”

McMichael and her husband, Ryan, are both Edwardsville natives and reside in Edwardsville with their sons, Max and Cooper. A 1997 Edwardsville High School graduate, McMichael earned an associate degree in nursing from Lewis and Clark Community College and earned a bachelor’s degree from Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College in St. Louis.

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