Chili is a delicious comfort food that tastes great but isn’t usually kidney friendly. So DaVita renal dietitian, Elizabeth from Pennsylvania, put on her thinking cap and came up with a way to limit the stuff that’s high in phosphorus, potassium and sodium. Elizabeth’s high-protein, veggie-packed Chicken Chili dish is quite tasty — family and friends will love it, too.
Elizabeth says she’s always had a love of cooking, along with a weight maintenance issue, and for these reasons, she became a renal dietitian. “My mom started teaching me to cook when I was young,” she says. As a high school student in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Elizabeth was already employed in a food-related job and continued from there.
“At 15 I started working in a nursing home as a diet aide. When I went to Indiana University right out of high school, I majored in Food Service Management, and worked in the kitchen as the Student Kitchen Manager. There, I had the opportunity to work with a chef that went to the Culinary Institute of America,” shares Elizabeth.
After graduation, Elizabeth worked as Food Production Manager, Operations Manager and then developed a training program in food service for mentally-challenged adults to help them get jobs in the community. “I decided to become a dietitian when a friend from high school told me her uncle was looking for a manager to oversee nutrition for seven nursing homes. I needed to be a registered dietitian in order to qualify for this position, so I went back to school.”
Upon finishing her internship, Elizabeth says, “I was hired by a contract food service company to work part-time inpatient and part-time outpatient as a renal dietitian. I was then promoted to nutrition support dietitian for a level one trauma center until its untimely closing approximately five years later. After working as a consultant for approximately a year, I decided I wanted to return to renal. When I learned how nutrition-oriented DaVita is, I sought a position.
“The most challenging aspect of my job is working with patients who don’t want to help themselves. However, I am rewarded by seeing improvement in patients’ labs from the education I provide.”
Making a difference in patients’ lives, according to Elizabeth, is best done by listening, encouraging and providing empathy and compassion. “One time a patient told me that I explained things in a way that he could understand. He told me that other medical professionals didn’t take the time to explain things. I try to apply my understanding of medical tests, so patients can grasp it. I enjoy talking to people about what they’ve done in their lives and what they’re looking forward to in the future. I try to put myself in their shoes.”
Elizabeth likes to make sure her patients learn about all aspects of their dialysis diet, “I provide patients with many different education pieces — as many as possible. New handouts will often provide new/different information. Patients that are not receptive to education, I leave alone until they are ready. I don’t nag.”
Elizabeth has been with DaVita for one-and-a-half years, and enjoys how nutrition-oriented the company is. “I enjoy networking with other teammates. The most interesting thing I’ve learned from working here are bone and anemia management. I work in two locations and especially like the center city location because the patients are low income and very appreciative of good care. My teammates always come in with a smile, and playfully encourage patients who want to come off dialysis treatment early, to stay a little longer.”
Elizabeth’s Chicken Chili has all the protein and veggies you need, in one steaming bowl. It’s versatile, reheats beautifully, and can even be frozen in individual portions to microwave instantly. Give it a try!