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The Halloween Spirit Brings Health Education to Life at Dialysis Center

A skeleton sits and waits in the Dialysis Center lobby.

The Dialysis Center in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community did a complete makeover to the clinic floor for the month of October, to celebrate Halloween and the fall season and also help educate patients, family members and visitors about how dialysis works to replace the functions of the kidneys in the human body.

Halloween decorations covered the walls and doors, but what made the decorations unique was the health knowledge behind them. Each decoration was thought out creatively to engage people and instill health knowledge into everyone who comes through the clinic. The decorations also made a place that many people visit feel more like a second home.

Sometimes patients miss their dialysis treatments, and the clinic staff believed that if they started decorating the clinic for holidays and adding a fun dose of education, it would impress patients and encourage them not to miss any of their scheduled dialysis sessions.

The team members came out on Saturday, September 30, to start decorating and ensure the theme of Halloween would blossom beginning on October 1. A major aspect of decorating the clinic was to try a different approach to education. Jesenia Valdez, a social worker at the Dialysis Center, said, “The whole purpose of decorating the clinic was to try different approaches for providing education to a lot of the patients that are here. Normally, our [patient] education is done verbally, but I’ve been here for four years and I [felt like that approach was] not working. And a lot of times people will ask, ‘Are you going to decorate the clinic?’”

One day Valdez was looking at the number of patients missing their treatments, and she thought that if the clinic appeared more festive during certain holidays, and if they added an educational angle, it would help.

“[It’s just] the littlest things to say we care. We could always say ‘We care, we miss you, and we need you to come in.’ But instead of us verbally saying it, we’re just trying to demonstrate it.”

The planning, time and creativity involved in the decoration and education seems to be working. “I’ve seen a couple of people who were missing a lot of treatments [who recently] haven’t missed any,” Valdez said.

Valdez said that the clinic is accepting donations of fall-related and Christmas-related materials to keep the theme going through the winter.

The simple act of getting people in the spirit of Halloween goes a long way. Colleen Stone, president of the Community’s Dialysis Support Group, was touched by the extra effort the staff took to decorate the clinic.

“As a [dialysis] patient, we really have ups and downs,” Stone said. “There’s some [patients] that all they know is to come [to the clinic], go to sleep, go home.”

Stone said that the clinic’s efforts really made a difference. “When I came in [the clinic], I was like ‘Oh my gosh!’ But what really struck me was the education they implemented and how much that made a difference to us.”

Not many dialysis centers make such an effort on behalf of their patients, Stone said. “The Community needs to know and the Council needs to know just how much these guys do for us (the Dialysis Center staff and techs), because they keep us alive.”

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