Theresa, a DaVita renal dietitian from Colorado, makes your mouth water with her savory and sweet recipe for Chicken Apple Crunch Salad. This recipe perfectly combines the crisp, freshness of fruit with nutritious chicken and tasty spices. It has been modified for the dialysis diet to encourage healthy eating and reduce the stress of what to prepare for lunch or dinner. Chicken Apple Crunch Salad is quick, easy to prepare and packed with delicious flavor.
At an early age, Theresa joined the 4-H Club in her hometown and developed an interest in food and nutrition. She still practices the four Hs she learned as a girl: Head — managing and thinking; Heart — relating and caring; Hands — giving and working and Health — being and living. Theresa reminisces, “Participating in the 4-H program for 10 years led to my interest in dietetics. Each year I enrolled in a different foods-related project, participated in the Creative Cooks contest and learned more about the composition of food. Eventually it was time to attend college and after learning more about the dietetics field, I thought this would offer me an opportunity to teach, be creative and remain mentally stimulated.”
Working at DaVita helps Theresa fulfill the 4-H philosophy. She uses her “head” by facing and overcoming the challenges in her job. “I try to encourage patients to make small changes to their current way of living. These small changes eventually lead to larger, more permanent changes. What was once thought to be difficult is now made easy. Helping patients see the harm they are causing themselves when not taking phosphorus binders, attending dialysis treatments regularly and following their renal diet can be difficult,” confides Theresa.
Theresa follows her “heart” when caring for her patients. “I try to offer a listening ear while showing compassion and empathy toward each patient. I understand no one is perfect, but I expect each patient to try their best each day to follow the renal diet and take their medications (especially phosphorus binders) appropriately. The most important thing to improve one’s health is to make behavior changes — one small step at a time,” advises Theresa.
Her “hands-on” approach with patients makes them feel special. “Each patient presents his or her unique personality, needs and interests. It is enjoyable to learn more about the patient and what is liked or disliked, their personal history, etc. Prior to our facility becoming DaVita, most patients lacked the one-on-one communication with a dietitian. My patients know that I will be available at least once during the week so that questions or concerns can be addressed. I team up with patients to improve lab values. By trouble-shooting potential reasons for an abnormal value and then finding a possible solution to improve the value everyone is in a win-win situation,” states Theresa.
By living her life with “health” and a happy attitude, Theresa gains the trust and inspires her patients. She shares, “While serving some Halloween treats, one patient said he didn’t want to be ‘poisoned’ by the food we were serving. I reassured him that the food was safe and asked if he would like to try it. As expected, he did try the salad, veggies and dip, and drink we had prepared. After serving the other patients on the same shift, I asked this patient if he would like more. Without hesitation, he asked for more of the salad and had forgotten his initial concern.”
Practicing the 4-Hs is the foundation of Theresa’s work. “Our facility is critical to the well-being of more than 50 patients because the nearest dialysis facility to our location is located one-and-a-half hours away, which is three hours round-trip. Some of our patients already drive an hour (two hours round-trip) just to reach our facility. Our team works together by putting patients’ needs first. Although the schedule is busy, everyone tries to have fun and participates in different activities we have scheduled throughout the year,” says Theresa.
Theresa’s approach to patient care has always been top notch, and working at DaVita encourages her to continue her service excellence. “DaVita strongly supports dietitians and the role we have in improving each patient’s outcome. DaVita encourages dietitians to be creative so that messages can be relayed to patients. One patient may not understand a verbal discussion, but with pictures everything comes to life! Networking with other dietitians around the state is also helpful when working with a challenging patient or just brainstorming ideas,” shares Theresa.
Approximately two-and-a-half years ago, Theresa decided to become involved in the renal field. “After working in the community nutrition field for five years, I was ready to become more specialized. Dietetic jobs in my area are somewhat sparse, so I jumped at the opportunity to join DaVita. Renal nutrition is ever-changing and offers many opportunities for both personal and professional growth and development.” Theresa has since become an expert in the renal diet. She says, “Following a renal diet can improve laboratory values significantly. You can always discover who is bending the rules when it’s time for the monthly lab draw.”
Theresa’s Chicken Apple Crunch Salad is a pleasing and healthy meal. Its light flavors and easy preparation are an ideal combination. Try Chicken Apple Crunch Salad for lunch with leftover chicken from dinner the night before. It’s a tasty treat that stretches your food budget without sacrificing on flavor.