CHARLOTTE – Typos have been around since the invention of the typewriter and despite technological advances like spellcheck and autocorrect, they still happen today.
Whether a misspelled word or grammatical error, typos are considered to be mistakes, but not for Rhonda Campbell Duggan. In her case, a misspelled word was the best mistake anyone could have ever made.
Duggan had always dreamed of becoming a trauma flight nurse. When she started her nursing career in 1995, she was assigned to work in neurology at Carolina Medical Center in Charlotte (now Atrium Health).
“The whole adrenaline thing, I loved that,” she said.
But on her first day, a typo redirected her to the nephrology unit working with patients with kidney disease. The unintended switch turned out to be the perfect career fit for Duggan, who has now been a nephrology nurse for over two decades.
“I asked them, ‘Are you sure this is where I’m supposed to be?’” she said. “I even called HR and they said that’s where I was supposed to be and 24 years later, it’s still where I’m supposed to be.”
Duggan spent four years at CMC before leaving to work at a home dialysis clinic. In 2002, she returned to CMC’s nephrology unit and worked on the transplant team until 2015, when she became a senior clinical innovation manager at Fresenius Kidney Care Charlotte.
She found she had a passion for working with patients with chronic kidney disease who need life-sustaining dialysis to mimic their natural kidney function. Fresenius Kidney Care helps more than 190,000 patients in the U.S. and operates more than 2,400 clinics, several of which are in Mecklenburg and Union counties.
As part of Fresenius’ home therapy clinical marketing team, Duggan wears a lot of hats. Not only does she work with patients, teaching them to administer their own dialysis at home, she also serves as the company’s clinical expert during product validation for new peritoneal dialysis (PD) machines, writes training materials for patients and nurses and represents Fresenius at industry trade shows and conferences.
PD is an at-home treatment for kidney failure that uses the lining of the abdomen to naturally filter and clean the blood. During treatments, dialysate fluid is circulated into the body through an abdominal catheter either manually or by using a PD machine called a cycler. The fluid absorbs the waste, toxins and excess fluid from the blood, which are removed when the dialysate is drained.
Treatments are generally painless and can be done while patients sleep. At-home PD is more flexible than going to a dialysis center several times a week (PD patients only have to go twice a month for blood work and checkups) and there are no needles, unlike hemodialysis.
Before starting PD, patients receive detailed training at a center to ensure they feel comfortable doing it on their own. They also learn proper catheter care.
“When patients are told they have a chronic disease, they feel like it’s out of their control,” Duggan said. “When you’re able to do your treatments at home, some of that control is taken back.”
Approximately 85% of patients with chronic kidney and end-stage renal diseases are eligible for dialysis, but only 10% choose to do it at home, according to Duggan. She thinks it’s because patients don’t feel confident enough. Either they’re hearing misinformation or not enough information about at-home PD, she said.
Inspired by her desire to encourage fellow nurses to empower their patients, Duggan decided to pursue a master’s degree in nursing with a focus on nursing education. But as a single mom, she worried she couldn’t afford to finish it.
Luckily, Duggan’s contributions to nephrology have not gone unnoticed. She recently received a scholarship from Fresenius Medical Care North America and the American Nephrology Nurses Association and is two classes away from earning her advanced degree. After graduation, her sights are set on working to develop a home dialysis training curriculum for nurses in the same nephrology unit she started in 24 years ago.
“I’m giving back and going back to my roots of where I got started,” she said.
Looking back, Duggan believes the typo on her first day was meant to be. Without it, she would have never discovered her passion or been able to make as big of an impact, especially in educating patients and nurses about at-home PD.
“Somebody planned it out for me,” Duggan said. “I didn’t necessarily know the plan, but somebody planned this for me. There’s no doubt about that.”