No party is complete without a big bowl of punch. It just seems to help conversation and adds a festive air to every gathering. DaVita renal dietitian, Christine from Georgia, dreamed up this bubbly beverage and called it Spooky Punch for Halloween, but it is tasty anytime and you can modify the recipe to fit any occasion.
Christine knew she wanted a career in a science field, but wasn’t sure which area. She started out as a pre-pharmacy major, and decided to take an introductory nutrition course. “I had never really thought about what I ate or if it affected me,” she says, adding, “After taking the class, I learned we can influence our health outcomes by the foods we choose to eat and even manage diseases.”
Originally from Saint Simons Island, Georgia, Christine attended the University of Georgia in Athens, and went on to graduate studies at Georgia State University in Atlanta. “My great-grandmother was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes when I was very young and passed away just as I was beginning my college career,” Christine says. “Discovering how diet control can manage the disease was eye-opening for me. I knew it was too late for my great-grandmother, but I could help others dealing with similar issues. I also realized that nutrition is a cutting-edge, exciting field. We have gained so much knowledge in the last 20 years. Nutrition research is only beginning to make its mark on our recommendations as clinicians.”
Christine interned with DaVita, which introduced her to the renal field, and after graduation, she worked as a clinical dietitian at a local hospital. “I loved what I did, but wasn’t satisfied,” she comments. “I don’t feel a hospital is the best setting for nutrition education. In my dialysis unit, I see my patients at least twice a week; therefore, I have the opportunity to provide on-going, consistent education with a team working toward shared goals. I enjoy being the primary nutrition expert in the clinic, yet I know that I have access to all the knowledgeable dietitians with DaVita.”
Motivating patients that are discouraged or do not seem to care about their health and quality of life is a challenge, Christine admits. “I try to help my patients change their outlook by identifying personal inspirations in their own lives. I’m not always able to encourage all my patients in the way they may need; however, I’ll never stop trying.
After spending a lot of time with a patient, educating them and knowing he/she has worked very hard to achieve their goals, the most rewarding part is seeing that patient feel well, be able to do the things they love to do and have great labs.”
How does Christine make a difference in patients’ lives? “I believe it is a huge hardship for my patients to come to hemodialysis and spend so much of their personal time in a clinic. I try to put myself in their shoes and think about the kind of care I would want if I were a patient, such as superior patient care in a pleasant atmosphere. I wouldn’t want it to feel like I was going to see the doctor three days a week. Instead, I would want to have fun. My team and I have a party at least every other month to celebrate our patients continued hard work. We pick a theme, decorate the clinic, play music, dress up, and provide food with several recipes taken from DaVita.com. I like to show the patients how to easily make healthy, renal-friendly recipes. I give every patient a personal invitation and encourage their participation in the festivities by providing prizes for the best costumes. Thus far, patients have loved our parties. It is a lot of fun to see them dress up and dance to the music. A few days after one of our parties, I asked a patient what she thought of it. She responded, ‘It was the most fun I’ve had in a long time.’ That just melted my heart! I knew that I was on the right track and wanted to continue to make her feel that way.”
Christine and another patient also took the initiative and planned a Saturday BBQ. “I did the food preparations and he did all the grilling.” Christine says. “We had such a fun time. It was nice to see a patient eager to assist other patients.”
The single most important thing patients can do to improve their health, according to Christine, is to take ownership of it and be a major participant in the health care team. “The clinical team can provide medications, education and support,” she says, “but it is ultimately up to the patient to pull it all together for successful outcomes.”
She’s been with DaVita since February 2008, and Christine says she loves choosing her own daily schedule based on her top priorities. “I love the flexibility of hours (more one day, less another), and love the team I work with. I feel everyone in the clinic wants to be there and wants to work for the same goals. This makes it a positive environment and enjoyable place to work. I also enjoy the opportunity for outside learning activities concerning anemia and bone and mineral metabolism (BMM). Before working at DaVita, I did not really know what a social worker’s position entailed. I now have great respect for social work and what it can accomplish for the clinic and our patients.”
Christine enthusiastically shares that she feels blessed with a fantastic team. “My facility administrator (FA), who is also a registered dietitian, is so supportive and has allowed me to make many of my crazy ideas a reality. The nurses and patient care technicians (PCTs) are extremely helpful with patient education and notify me, when needed. I am very lucky to work with such a wonderful team.”
If there’s one thing Christine knows, it’s how to make a party punch. Spooky Punch is a great way to get the gang gathered around the punch bowl and get festivities off to a great start.