Tequila Bell is a certified dialysis technician in Outpatient Dialysis Services at the Jackson Medical Mall.
Tequila Bell is a certified dialysis technician in Outpatient Dialysis Services at the Jackson Medical Mall.
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Front and Center: Tequila Bell

Published on Monday, February 27, 2023

By: Ruth Cummins

Photos By: Jay Ferchaud/ UMMC Communications

When Tequila Bell settles in her patients for outpatient kidney dialysis, it’s personal.

Outpatient dialysis is a four-hour process, three times a week. Bell, a certified dialysis technician, knows her patients and works hard to educate them on how to be their healthiest selves, be that watching their diet or keeping an eye on their fluid intake.

She and the University of Mississippi Medical Center Outpatient Dialysis Services team at the Jackson Medical Mall “clean” their patients’ blood because their failing kidneys are too sick to do that job. “When they come in, we make sure to get their weight to see how much fluid they have, and to make sure we remove the correct amount. We get their blood pressure,” Bell said.

The two types of dialysis, hemodialysis and peritoneal dialysis, both replace normal kidney functions, filtering waste and excess fluid from the blood and removing toxins that build up in the bloodstream. During hemodialysis, technicians remove blood through a needle in the patient’s arm, run the blood through a dialysis machine, and then returns the filtered blood to the body through a different needle.

Peritoneal dialysis can be done at home, either using a machine or a dialysis cleansing solution that flows through a catheter tube into the patient’s abdomen and peritoneum.

“We know a lot of their background,” Bell, a technician at UMMC for almost four years, said of her patients. Technicians are assigned a particular set of patients each day, and often, they see the same patients over and over.

“We take the time to educate them on the food they’re eating, and check to see if they’re taking in too much salt and fluid. We’re like a big family,” Bell said.

“Tequila is a constant in outpatient dialysis,” said Heidi Ferguson, Outpatient Dialysis Services director and Bell’s supervisor. “Starting as a patient care technician, she has worked her way up to be a certified dialysis technician.

“She is the one we call when we’re having a difficult time accessing fistulas and grafts, and she is always available to work during a winter storm or when staffing is down.”

Bell’s patients range in age from 19 to about 80. Only a few are on a kidney transplant waiting list, but some could become candidates if they take steps to become healthier so that they meet the requirements, she said.

Bell has a ready answer when asked what she likes best about her job: “My patients,” she said. “I enjoy interacting with them and teaching them so many things.”

“Tequila is loved by her patients and respected by those who work with her,” Ferguson said. “She trains others to become technicians and develops relationships with her co-workers.”

A Clinton resident, Bell is mom to boys ages 14 and 7. As a family, they enjoy going to the park, eating out and taking in movies.

She’s about to achieve a life milestone. Bell just completed nursing school at Alcorn State University and will be taking the registered nurse licensure exam in just a few weeks.

“My plans are to stay here in outpatient dialysis,” Bell said. “I’ll take on more responsibility, but I’ll also do some of the same things I do now.”

Ferguson is proud of Bell for her dedication to her patients and desire to become a dialysis nurse.

“Tequila is the example of someone starting at UMMC, growing within the department and having the potential to become a manager of a unit,” Ferguson said. “She has demonstrated that UMMC is a place for growth and opportunity.”

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