Some people are drawn to the world of dietetics out of a love for food, and some are drawn by the chance to create healing through nutrition. For others, it’s all of the above—plus a passion for football. “I liked the ‘food is medicine’ idea which was floating around while I was in school,” says Stephanie, a DaVita dietitian from Washington. “Also, I figured if I was the dietitian for the Dallas Cowboys, I could get into all of the games for free!”
A diehard Cowboys fan to this day, Stephanie nonetheless gravitated to the world of renal care, excited by the challenges inherent to kidney care and nutrition. “I liked the complexity of the patients, and I feel dietitians are very well utilized in this field.”
Born and raised in the Lone Star State, Stephanie completed her studies at the University of North Texas and Texas Woman’s University before going on to join the DaVita team in not one, not two, not even three, but four clinics in the Oregon and Washington area.
With that many patients, it’s no wonder Stephanie describes her biggest challenge as “getting my charting done.” But she adds that the rewards of her job greatly outweigh any amount of paperwork. “Seeing the patients improve in that critical first three months of treatment is great,” she notes. “I love to see their personalities come alive again after they have been sick for so long.”
In fact, Stephanie credits her patients with making her caseload seem effortless. “They make my day better almost every time,” she says. “They make me laugh, cry, curse, dance…you name it!”
Empowering patients through education and encouraging their own proactivity is part of Stephanie’s credo. “I provide education on a number of topics, which I believe gives patients peace of mind, a better basis for decision making, and more control over their treatment,” she explains.
Eschewing the Nurse Ratched approach also helps. “We are going to be working together for a while, so I try to establish a trusting friendship first,” notes Stephanie. “I don’t want to be the food police!” As such, Stephanie encourages her patients to collaborate on their treatment plans, and to always “ask questions.”
Stephanie uses collaboration in her work relationships as well, which has done a lot to improve patient-staff dialogue at her clinic. “I have been rounding with doctors and the clinic social worker at chair-side,” she says. “It makes a huge difference with communication and therapy changes. The patients feel more confident in their clinical team, and it has shifted some of the patient-doctor interactions to a more relaxed, open-discussion format.”
Although she’s only been with DaVita for a year and a half, Stephanie says her time at her four “big, clean” clinics has been its own higher education. “There is a lot to enjoy,” she notes. “What makes my life the easiest is the Dietitian Connection website and all the information it contains.” And apparently, that’s a lot of information. “I have learned five times my weight in information.”
She’s also in awe of her patients. “Some of these patients have every reason in the world to be angry and irritable, and yet they show up day after day with smiles on their faces and jokes to share with the team,” marvels Stephanie. “The patients are so spunky. It keeps the staff on their toes.”
And even when she’s not on her toes, the patients still make it fun. “I was on the treatment floor handing back monthly labs. I went to sit on the stool I was using, when it rolled out from under me. Papers went flying as I went crashing to the ground in front of everyone,” recalls Stephanie. “The sweetest part of the story is my patients were on the edges of their seats trying to help me and see if I was OK. It wasn’t until I popped up, stating, “Nothing to see here!” that laughter broke out.