When a recipe gets passed down from mother to daughter, you can bet it’s a tried-and-true hit with the whole family. Cookie Salad is a family tradition that mom, Thelma, passed along to her daughter, Carrie, a DaVita renal dietitian from Ohio. Cookie Salad is a concoction of fruit and crumbled vanilla wafers suspended in a fluffy cloud of creamy Cool Whip®. Served in a glass bowl, it looks as divine as it tastes.
Originally from Pemberville, Ohio, which Carrie describes as a small town in the northwest region.
“I attended Bluffton University and actually started my college career as a pharmacy major. During the second quarter of my freshman year, I took a basic nutrition course and loved the class, especially the professor. This motivated me to change to the field of dietetics. I wanted to promote overall wellness, instead of always taking a pill. By becoming a dietitian, I realized the importance of giving the body good fuel to help people feel their best,” explains Carrie.
Carrie admits that during her internship, she actually passed out in the dialysis unit. So, how does someone who passes out at the sight of blood work in a dialysis center? “After my internship, I was offered a job at a small community hospital, where the dialysis unit was part of the clinical dietitian’s job. The first few weeks were tough — I had flashbacks of passing out. However, I got over it and have come to love dialysis over the last five-and-a-half years. In fact, I prefer to work in dialysis now and have been with DaVita for a year and a half,” shares Carrie.
Getting over the flashbacks was easy for Carrie, because she really enjoys the dialysis setting. “What I most enjoy about my job is getting to know patients. I love the dialysis setting because I’m able to build relationships with patients. There is no comparison to a hospital setting where I saw patients for a couple of days and then they were discharged,” shares Carrie.
Being a health coach for her patients is appealing to Carrie. “The most challenging aspect of my job is coming up with new, creative ways to educate patients. I like to make learning fun and am not trying to be the ‘dialysis diet police,’” admits Carrie. “When I hear patients comment on how much better they feel due to following their fluid restriction or controlling their phosphorus, I’m rewarded. I try to help patients understand that by following their diet, taking medications properly and getting exercise, if they are able, they’ll feel better. Helping someone feel better is wonderful,” beams Carrie.
All dietitians try to find the best way to communicate with their patients. Carrie says, “My approach is to first get to know a little bit about them before trying to educate. If I build a relationship first, I have found education goes more smoothly. I’m never stern and I understand that everyone has favorite foods. I try to help patients figure out how to include these favorite foods in moderation when they are higher in sodium, phosphorus or potassium. In fact, the key to improving health is practicing moderation. Living on dialysis isn’t an all-or-nothing approach.”
At her dialysis facility, Carrie’s team has found a great way to emphasize that the dialysis diet can be enjoyable. According to Carrie, “We have what we call ‘Fun Days’. On holidays or special days, some of the teammates will each make a recipe from DaVita.com. We pass samples out to patients, which helps them realize that dialysis-friendly foods are actually tasty.”
Carrie enjoys working with her patients, the teammates at her center and for DaVita as a company. She explains, “DaVita is very supportive of dietitians. Our fall and spring annual meetings are a wonderful way to connect with other DaVita dietitians. The free continuing education is always welcome. Despite being a large and spread out company, DaVita does a great job communicating and helping teammates. The trainings, academies, conference calls, meetings, newsletters, etc., help me feel great about working for the company.”
You can feel great about serving Carrie’s family recipe for Cookie Salad. Make it ahead of time and keep it in the refrigerator. Dipping into a bowl of Cookie Salad is like putting your spoon into a yummy cloud, and it’s kidney-friendly, so enjoy!