Kirkland resident Connie Anderson studied nursing on a whim. She was attending the University of Washington and her roommate was in nursing and her aunt was a nurse, so she took a chance and joined the major herself.
She graduated in 1973 and one year later, was injured in a skiing accident and broke her legs. Five months passed and the hospital she was working at in downtown Seattle didn’t want her on the floor with her injuries.
There was however, an opening at the Northwest Kidney Centers for a shift as an evening charge nurse. Medicare had just started up and there was an outpatient dialysis center for the first time. A new branch of health care was being born.
The kidney center, according to its website, is a “non-profit provider of kidney dialysis, public health education and research.”
Anderson’s favorite part about working as a nurse and with Northwest Kidney Centers is patient collaboration. Her job allows her to work with people all day and she loves being able to help them, she said. She also likes being able to work with other doctors and nurses and helping them grow in the kidney center.
Anderson has worked at Northwest Kidney Centers for the last 44 years and has worked her way up from an evening charge nurse to vice president of clinical operations.
“In a way, it’s like I’ve kind of grown up with the kidney center,” she said.
And after more than four decades at the center, she will retire this year.
With clinical operations, Anderson said she monitors patient outcomes and analyzes a visitor’s experience at the kidney center. This requires her to cross check iron levels with protein levels as well as a patient’s personal satisfaction.
“It’s all about numbers,” Anderson said.
The nature of her job has also advanced in the 44 years she’s been employed. She noted the changes in health care’s focus on patients as well as cost and life expectancy going up.
She’s also noticed a significant amount of changes regarding technology, such as the invention of an artificial kidney for patients to wear, as well as pharmaceutical drugs discoveries such as Erythropoietin.
Anderson has specialized in dialysis treatment during her time with Northwest Kidney Centers. The center was the first outpatient dialysis center in the world and continues to be the largest in King County. Anderson said the evolution over the years has been fairly “slow” but rewarding.
In the past 44 years, Anderson has established the care manager approach to patient care and furthered relationships with area nursing schools. She paired the kidney center partner with UW and in turn, has taught future generations about the importance of dialysis treatment.
She was also responsible for having dialysis treatment available on weekends. Northwest Kidney Centers was the first dialysis center to be open on both Saturdays and Sundays, Anderson said. It was while shortly after she was hired as an evening shift charge nurse that she was asked which weekend night she’d be available to work. At 24-years-old, Anderson chose Sundays, allowing the center to be open and running for years to come.
In addition, Anderson has seen Northwest Kidney Centers grow, treat more patients and save more lives. For example, the center is the only dialysis center in the United States with a peer management system, that allows for a “collaborative approach” to treatment and promotes patient care by focusing on outcomes, carefully planning treatment and then measuring results, according to an Northwest Kidney Centers newsletter.
Anderson mentioned that Seattle has a lot of “firsts” and expects to see more in years to come regarding dialysis treatment.
“We’re really very fortunate to be here in Seattle,” she said. “It really is a gem from a historical perspective.”