Light golden meringues turn into crispy, shiny mounds by baking at a low temperature in about 15 minutes. With this recipe for Royal Meringue Cookies, Barbara from Alabama discovered an easy method for cloud-like meringues, adapted for dialysis diets.
Barbara grew up in Wauchula, Florida, a small centrally located town, and attended Tuskegee University in Alabama. She became a dietitian because she wanted to work in a hospital. “I loved cooking and I loved people,” she says, “therefore, I thought this profession would provide a great combination of the two.”
She was led into the field when a renal dietitian was needed in her town. “Back in the 70s, renal was the last choice dietitians would select,” she says. “Now I realize how rewarding it is to see a patient who has not felt well for a long time, develop a quality of life that allows them to function as well or better than before.” The challenging aspect, she adds, “is getting patients to consistently control their phosphorus levels.
When asked how she makes a difference in people’s lives, Barbara mentions that she provides necessary health information and sometimes supplemental samples for patients, based on individual needs, which can improve or maintain quality of life and independence. “I enjoy seeing my patients maintaining their dignity, and functioning at their greatest capacity,” she says. “When a patient’s quality of life has improved because of the collaborative effort of the team, I am joyful.”
In terms of a working approach, Barbara explains that she observes the patient and family, and adjusts her interactions accordingly. ”I have information that the patient and family need in order to have good lab outcomes. I want them to see me in the light of caring, and provide information that is going to help them feel better and live longer.
I think the single most important thing patients can do to improve their health is to take an active role as much as possible. Examples of maintaining health include: knowing about their medications, taking medicines as directed, keeping up with dry weights and controlling weight gain between dialysis treatments, knowing the dialysis diet, knowing how to keep lab values at an acceptable level, maintaining acceptable blood pressure levels and being open to education on the latest information concerning health challenges. Some patients may accomplish one or all of these examples, and even more.”
Interactive learning is a method Barbara mentions as effective with patients. “If I give them a food item and ask if there is a phosphorus preservative listed on the ingredient label, it challenges them to look and check if there are any ‘phos’ words. They will remember the experience and it tells me if they know how to read the ingredient label.”
Barbara has worked at DaVita for five years, and enjoys the quantity of educational materials that are available to the patients as well as staff. The most interesting thing she’s experienced with DaVita is the company’s diligence in educating staff in the pursuit of great outcomes. She explains that this is a nationwide pursuit, and all of DaVita “is on the same page.”
“I have two really sweet stories to share,” Barbara comments. “A patient once told me I had the look of an angel. I really felt special at the time she told me. I cherished the moment and never forgot it. Another time, a patient who recently started dialysis at our DaVita unit remembered me from years ago at another job. She said that she came to my old unit for outpatient counseling and she was dying because she could not eat. She said I gave her samples of Nepro®, she drank them, and her husband bought her more. She said that I saved her life. It sounds a little ironic, but now she is at DaVita, which means ‘giving life.’”
Barbara feels the location of her center is convenient for patients and staff, and points out that the hospitals are in close proximity. “We have a very good team,” she says. “Of 24 teammates, 4 of us have been here for more than 20 years, and another 4 have been here more than 10 years. Presently, we have a staff/patient project going on to celebrate monthly birthdays. Each month we are striving to celebrate and decorate better than the previous month’s birthday people. The teammate and patient ideas are original and unique. Patients and teammates are enjoying the DaVita Core Value of Fun!”
Sample a taste of fun with a batch of Barbara’s Royal Meringue Cookies. DaVita always aims to treat patients like royalty, so it’s only natural Barbara would offer a cookie recipe fit for a king or queen.