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DaVita renal dietitian Melanie from Ohio offers this easy-to-make recipe for Tasty Chicken Patties. Canned chicken is combined with cream cheese, egg, sage, garlic powder, black pepper, onion powder, Italian seasoning and bread crumbs to form patties which are quickly and easily fried up in a skillet. Tasty Chicken Patties would make an ideal choice for lunch or dinner when you’re looking for something that’s deliciously different, yet cooks up in no time.
A native of Marietta, Ohio, Melanie attended college at Ohio University in Athens. It was there that she first became interested in dietetics. “During my second year of college, I decided to change my major and began researching various careers. I was not familiar with the field of dietetics, so I focused on this field in more detail,” Melanie remembers. “In addition to always enjoying eating and trying new foods, I had also been interested in health care and discovered that dietetics could be a good career choice for many reasons. Initially dietetics sounded like a good opportunity to educate myself further about making good food choices. But I also discovered that becoming a dietitian could be an excellent opportunity to learn more about the impact nutrition has on health and various diseases.”
It was participating in an internship that led Melanie into the renal field. “The first experience I had in dialysis was during my internship. I liked the dialysis setting early on, mostly because it provided me with the opportunity to see patients over a much longer time period than in the hospital,” explains Melanie. “Oftentimes I wondered what kind of an impact I had on patients that I had provided outpatient dietary education to in the hospital. In the dialysis setting, I was able to work with the same patients on a more regular basis and see the progress they made. I could also see the effects of the dietary education I provided to them. Soon after I finished my internship, I was hired by a dialysis company that later became DaVita.”
“There are many rewarding and challenging aspects to being a renal dietitian in the dialysis setting,” says Melanie. “It is difficult to see people experience a sudden change in their lives when dialysis is initiated. It has such a great impact not only on the individual starting dialysis, but also on their families and/or caregivers. Trying to help patients learn more about how what they eat affects their overall health and then helping them develop a plan that fits them individually is probably the most challenging aspect for me.”
Melanie points out that although there are many challenging aspects of being a renal dietitian, there are many rewarding parts, too. “It is very rewarding for me to see patients and teammates reach goals that they have set for themselves, and then see them experience the sense of accomplishment that comes with meeting goals. It is also very rewarding to work with teams that have such a high level of expertise, including the DaVita Dietitian Team.”
When asked how she makes a difference in patients’ lives, Melanie replies, “My goal for making a difference in patients’ lives is to listen to them and hear what they are saying, to accept each individual for who they are and what they are capable of and to offer compassion and respect while guiding them in their daily eating habits. Most of us do not truly understand what our patients are going through on a daily basis. I try to empower patients to make good choices for themselves.”
This DaVita renal dietitian learns from her patients as she guides them to better health. “I appreciate the various personalities of the patients I meet and work with,” explains Melanie. “I have learned so much from patients I’ve had the opportunity to work with throughout my career.”
Melanie brings a flexible approach to working with patients at DaVita. “I have noticed that people don’t respond well to fear. I believe that most patients understand how not following dietary recommendations may affect them; however, I do not feel this is what motivates a person to change a behavior,” states Melanie. “I encourage patients to focus on what is important to them personally and often ask what motivates them to make changes or what has helped them accomplish goals in the past. I think it’s also important to change my approach when working with people in helping them achieve their goals. Sometimes it’s obvious someone doesn’t want to discuss labs or diet. Maybe he or she just wants to vent, and that’s what I’d let the patient do.”
When asked what is the single most important thing patients can do to improve their health, Melanie had this to say: “I think the most important thing is for patients to set and reset short- and long-term personal goals that relate to their overall health, while considering what they want in life. Also, I believe that patients should celebrate successes, even small ones.”
Celebrating is a regular occurrence at DaVita. “We celebrate birthdays of the month at one unit two days of each month by making a renal recipe and letting patients try it,” Melanie explains. “The patients who have birthdays that month are recognized and everyone gets to try a new recipe, too. People really seem to enjoy it.”
Although dialysis is serious business, there’s still room for a sense of humor on the job. “One patient I worked with would always make some comment about eating chocolate every time he saw me after I encouraged him to avoid chocolate because of the phosphorus content. Some of his comments would be in a joking tone, and sometimes he’d bring in a candy bar and wait for me to come around to him before eating it; anything to try to get a rise out of me,” Melanie remembers. “He would bring me different articles and ads related to chocolate and even wore a tee shirt related to eating chocolate. One day when I was reviewing labs, he proudly presented me with a signed prescription from the doctor that stated, ‘patient should eat chocolate every day.’ He could not wait to show this to me and thought it was hilarious.”
As a 10-year veteran with DaVita, Melanie enjoys their team approach. “I really like the emphasis on team within the units. I also appreciate the dietitian meetings/networking and the resources available to us,” says Melanie.
Melanie says that her home unit, Marietta DaVita in Ohio, is special because of “all of the colorful personalities that we have.” She goes on to say, “I can’t imagine working with such a wonderful, fun, caring group of people (this goes for all the units I work in) anywhere else.”
The most surprising thing Melanie has learned since she started working at DaVita is how involved the company is in many areas. “I am surprised by all of the different things DaVita is involved in as a company, including the medical missions, the patient advocate group and award programs that honor teammates, just to name a few,” Melanie explains.
The next time you’re looking for an easy-to-make meal that fits into the kidney diet and is perfect for lunch or dinner, turn to DaVita renal dietitian Melanie’s recipe for Tasty Chicken Patties.
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