Need a protein dish pronto? Make one speedy with spiedies (both words are pronounced the same). DaVita dietitian, Jennifer from Wisconsin, shares a recipe for this regional favorite that closely resembles the chicken kebab. These skewered cubes of marinated chicken grill in a jiffy and taste great.
Jennifer grew up in Watertown, and then went on to attend Viterbo College in La Crosse, Wisconsin. She didn’t intend to become a dietitian, but somewhere along the line, it seemed like a perfect fit. According to Jennifer, “I started going to school for pre-med and chemistry, but decided against the long on-call hours and residency. I changed to nutrition and dietetics because it included everything I enjoyed—math, science, food and people.”
Jennifer joined DaVita in 2005. About her decision to work with kidney patients, she states, “I was drawn to the renal field because the diet makes a big difference in how patients feel and do. I also love the fact that I can see my patients three times a week to work on diet improvements.” Jennifer feels, “The most enjoyable part of my job is meeting with people on a continuous basis and giving the feedback and support that they need to follow a renal diet. When I talk with my patients I always try to imagine what it must be like to be in that dialysis chair. I also try to make them part of decision-making so they can feel good about the process.”
She says the most challenging part of her job is working very hard with patients and not getting the positive results to share with them. But when the hard work finally pays off, she gets her greatest reward. “When patients say ‘thank you,’ and are appreciative of my assistance, that’s the most rewarding part of my job. I also love to see my patients’ faces when they get that smiley face on a good report card.”
One educational approach Jennifer has found to be helpful and fun for her as well as her patients is playing games. Jennifer explains, “Patients don’t always remember what you tell them, even when it’s repeated, so games are a popular, interactive way to reinforce information.” One game her patients enjoy is “fishing.” Using a magnetic fishing pole, patients cast their line into a paper bag to catch magnetic food items. “If they catch an item low in phosphorus, it’s a keeper; if the food is high in phosphorus, they have to throw it back,” shares Jennifer, adding, “Patients love the interaction.”
Making sure patients understand what’s good to eat is only one aspect of helping them, as Jennifer reports, “When playing the phosphorus games during the patient education days, the patients with perfect phosphorus levels had some mistakes in choosing between high and low phosphorus foods. The patients that always have a high phosphorus level can tell you with 100% accuracy what is high or low in phosphorus, what their binder is and how much they should be taking!” In addition to teaching them, Jennifer tries to motivate patients to eat better to feel better. She says, “I try to make a difference by letting patients know that they can always come to me and I’ll try my best to help them—no matter what.”
Besides providing good nutrition information and motivation, Jennifer shares her philosophy. “I feel the most important thing a patient can do to improve their health is to focus on the positive things in life, accept their current situation and move forward. Focusing on the negative and having a negative attitude makes it very difficult to enjoy life,” states Jennifer.
Jennifer is proud of her center and teammates. “The whole team works extremely hard to improve outcomes for our patients,” she says. She also praises the DaVita nutrition team across the country and the quantity and quality of the educational materials that are available to help treat her patients.
Here’s a treat from Jennifer for everyone to try. Chicken Spiedies are a tempting entrée and easy to prepare. Throw some peppers and zucchini on the grill while the spiedies are sizzling and you’ll have a meal in minutes.