Chicken in a in a creamy ranch sauce over penne pasta—doesn’t that sound good? It all came about the day that Jackie from Virginia looked over a collection of lighter-fare recipes and got inspired to make her own version of Ranch Chicken Pasta. The dish can be served with a side salad or steamed veggies to complete a wholesome meal that will please a crowd. Or, if you have them, leftovers can go in the freezer for future meals.
Jackie hails from the city of Mishawaka, Indiana, a town that calls itself “always familiar, forever new.” Kind of like the recipes on this website. When it was time for college, Jackie went to Purdue University in West Lafayette where she started becoming more interested in healthy eating and exercise. “I decided to go back to school after a few years not knowing what I wanted to major in, and found out about dietetics. I starting learning more and cooking healthier meals and wanted to spread the word to other people.” She received her Bachelor of Science in Dietetics and then completed her dietetic internship at Winthrop University in Rock Hill, South Carolina.
The renal field beckoned when Jackie had to do a job shadow for one of her courses. It just so happened that her future husband’s aunt was a renal dietitian. “Seeing what she did inspired me,” Jackie says, “and I loved the freedom with patients, and how she worked with them. It made me want to go into renal in my career.”
Jackie mentions that the most challenging aspects of her job are phosphorus control and trying to educate patients on healthier choices. Rewards come later when she sees “the light go on” as someone understands there are ways to work things into their renal diet that they previously thought they couldn’t eat. Jackie adds, “Seeing improvements in health is great! I make a difference in patients’ lives by being available and making sure they can freely ask me anything. I really try to emphasize this. I want patients to trust that I will help them in any way to make their lives healthier. Showing them that eating healthier foods can make a difference is so important in their lives.”
There’s also an enjoyable aspect to working as a dietitian. “I enjoy being able to get to know my patients,” Jackie enthuses. “I get to see them almost every day and really get to know where they are coming from. It’s not just meeting them once and wondering if I’ve made any kind of impact on what I’ve educated them on in regards to their diet. I try to build a rapport. I want them to know I am here to guide, not lecture them. They are adults who can ultimately make their own decisions. I try to give them the knowledge and tools to make better choices for themselves.”
When asked if she could pinpoint the single most important thing patients can do to improve their health, Jackie stresses making more foods at home, and reaching for less processed foods. “This way, they are controlling what they are putting into their bodies,” she says.
At DaVita, dietitians are encouraged to try new activities and approaches with patients. Jackie points out that at her facility, “We do Popsicle® Day and educate them on different aspects of the dialysis diet, i.e. protein, phosphorus. We give them a small quiz and a Popsicle is the reward for participating. Patients love the Popsicle!”
Jackie has been with DaVita for one and a half years now. “I enjoy being able to interact with other dietitians and bounce ideas off of each other. Having them there to brainstorm is great. DaVita also has a great wealth of educational materials that are useful so that dietitians don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You can educate all you want, but the patient ultimately decides what they want to eat and if they want to take their medications. As a dietitian, I am there to be supportive and encouraging, and I try my hardest to get them to understand they can feel better, just with their diet.”
Jackie says that the team at her facility really makes it special. “We all get along well and the patients seem to have a good experience while they interact with each other and the team. I love the fact that the location is close to my home. Our center offers three treatment options: hemodialysis (HD), peritoneal dialysis (PD) and home hemodialysis (HHD). Our HHD program is slowly growing.”
Jackie’s Ranch Chicken Pasta is a yummy winner that uses no prepared sauce. It’s all from scratch and tastes like it too!