From curiosity to compassion: A Nurse Practitioner's journey in kidney care

Lori Harwood, NP in the Regional Renal Program and Practice Consultant.

Embracing a profound and sincere dedication to placing the well-being, comfort, and needs of others defines a Nurse Practitioner (NP). This concept resonates with Lori Harwood, NP in the Regional Renal Program and NP Practice Consultant for Victoria Hospital at London Health Sciences Centre (LHSC), as she made the decision to care for those living with chronic kidney disease.

From her formative years at The Hospital for Sick Children to her move to LHSC in 1998 and up to the present, her path has been intertwined with those struggling with kidney ailments. "My entire career has been dedicated to working with people with this disease, either as a nurse practitioner or researcher," she says.

Curiosity was the spark that ignited Lori in her journey of research. Simple questions led to small projects, which gradually transformed into impactful studies. Whether examining foot problems in dialysis units or investigating challenges in hemodialysis, Lori's determination sought to make a difference in this field.

Collaborations with fellow health care professionals, even across continents, magnified the impact of her work in this field. "My colleague and I were contacted by people in the UK doing similar studies with problems in the dialysis unit that we were doing," she explains. Early in her career, Lori and her NP colleagues questioned, "are we seeing as many foot problems as we think? And sure enough, the data showed yes. Then we developed a foot program in dialysis for monitoring and reporting."

Pivotal figures in health care

Lori Harwood has held the NP role for over 20 years, and back then, people could claim the title without formal qualifications, creating a void of standards and accountability. "The term nurse practitioner wasn't protected or legislated. We couldn't do any prescriptions," she recalls.

Over time, and with legislative reforms, NPs could prescribe based on their expertise and judgment, but it didn't stay there. The role expanded beyond that; they were empowered to order investigations, enabling a more comprehensive approach to patient care and becoming, this way, pivotal figures in health care.

Through the years, the role of NPs has also evolved beyond clinical care. Lori's six-year term as the Kidney Foundation of Canada Allied Health Research Committee Chair was a testament to that. Guiding research grants and scholarships, she gave back to the organization that earned her a fellowship to obtain her PhD.

Lori's story, like many others, is one of empowerment, pushing boundaries and embracing change. But above all, it is a story of making a tangible difference. "Getting patients the services they need promptly has been rewarding," she says.