Internal Medicine and Nephrology, Certified Clinical Research Professional,
Peninsula Kidney Associates
Caring for kidney failure patients isn’t an easy task. A surprising number are very young, and non-compliance and depression are common. Many are facing multiple health complications associated with chronic kidney disease, including an increased risk of heart attack or stroke.
Linda Jones-Brandon, a nurse practitioner and researcher at Peninsula Kidney Associates for nearly 18 years, embraces all of the challenges.
“In my heart, I believe that nursing is truly a calling,” Jones-Brandon says. “Serving a chronically ill population is not for everyone, but my patients deserve quality care, compassion and empathy. Sometimes I am able to get through to people when the doctors can’t, often because I just spend more time with them.”
A Newport News native, Jones-Brandon is charged both with educating her patients on medications and lifestyle therapies and – perhaps just as importantly – encouraging them to stay positive.
“Some people view their diagnosis as a death sentence,” she notes. “It’s very difficult to watch some patients deteriorate because they’re not taking care of themselves. My job is to give them hope: to boost their spirits, counsel them and connect with them as individual human beings.”
Jones-Brandon, who earned her nursing degree from Old Dominion University in 1996, originally gravitated to critical care. While managing cardiac and post-surgical patients, she also had to support some through hemodialysis. “I was always fascinated,” she recalls. “I would just stand there watching the process of a dialysis treatment and asking a ton of questions.”
After completing her master’s degree in nursing at Hampton University in 2000, Jones-Brandon dove into nephrology, a field where nurse practitioners are playing an increasingly important role. By 2004, she started getting involved in clinical research studies at Peninsula Kidney Associates; today, she serves as Lead Study Coordinator for the practice’s thriving Clinical Research Program.
In that role, Jones-Brandon has helped gain FDA approval for multiple medications for renal disease, including treatments for anemia, hypercalcemia and other mineral and bone disorders. “It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s extremely rewarding to increase the options for these complex patients,” she says.
In addition, Jones-Brandon is passionate about removing roadblocks within the healthcare system that can thwart early diagnosis of kidney disease.
“I see far too many young people on dialysis, especially African-Americans,” she relates. “There are socio-economic and insurance factors that keep people from getting regular checks of their blood pressure and urine protein levels. By the time they feel sick enough to go to the emergency room, they may be in full-blown kidney failure.”
Furthermore, some patients who undergo a kidney transplant discover they can’t afford needed post-surgical medication and end up back on dialysis: “Sometimes I have to talk to them about finances and ways to plan. They don’t always like it, but I do it because I care about them.”
Jones-Brandon encourages a message of disease prevention throughout different specialties, especially family medicine. Maintaining an optimal weight, eating well, drinking plenty of water, exercising and scheduling annual physical exams are all critical to kidney health, she notes. So is strict management of high blood pressure and diabetes, even if they are symptomless.
“Primary care physicians are getting more proactive about referring people to nephrologists sooner, which I think is a very important trend,” she adds.
A married mother of two preteen boys, Jones-Brandon enjoys flower gardening as a hobby at her Smithfield home and counts herself blessed to have built a career she loves – especially in her hometown.
“I’m always learning, and I work with great doctors,” she says. “I have a very collaborative, open relationship with them, which helps build stronger connections between them and our patients. I’m grateful that people have trust in me.”