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Exercise counseling practices among nephrologists caring for patients on dialysis

Kirsten L Johansen, Giorgos K Sakkas, Julie Doyle, Tiffany Shubert, R Adams Dudley
American Journal of Kidney Diseases 2003, 41 (1): 171-8

BACKGROUND: Patients on dialysis therapy are inactive, are at high risk for conditions that can be prevented or ameliorated by exercise, and often receive most of their care from their nephrologist. Exercise counseling by physicians can increase patients' levels of physical activity. The aim of the study is to determine the frequency of exercise assessment and counseling among practicing nephrologists, characteristics of nephrologists who provide exercise counseling to their dialysis patients, and barriers to exercise counseling perceived by nephrologists.

METHODS: A 25-item survey regarding exercise counseling was administered to nephrologists attending the World Congress of Nephrology meeting in 2001.

RESULTS: Five hundred five nephrologists completed the survey. Overall, 38% reported "almost always" or "often" assessing patient level of physical activity and counseling inactive patients to increase activity. Older (P < 0.0001), more active (P = 0.033), and women (P = 0.018) nephrologists, as well as those who provided primary care to more of their patients (P = 0.007), were more likely to provide exercise counseling. Nephrologists who do not provide routine counseling were more likely to endorse lack of time (P < 0.0001), lack of confidence in their ability to counsel patients (P < 0.0001), and lack of conviction that patients will respond as barriers to counseling (P = 0.01). In addition, noncounseling nephrologists were more likely to believe that other medical issues were more important than exercise (P = 0.01).

CONCLUSION: Rates of exercise counseling among nephrologists are low, although dialysis patients are a high-risk group unlikely to receive advice about exercise from other health care providers. The low rates of counseling, particularly among younger nephrologists, could be addressed by including information about counseling in fellowship training and/or practice guidelines for the care of patients on dialysis therapy.


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