Our latest kidney friendly offering, Chicken Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, comes courtesy of Jamie, a DaVita dietitian based in New Mexico. Jamie took a standard comfort food and applied her dietitian magic to make it so kidney friendly it should be illegal in 15 states. Lucky for us, health is not a crime.
Also fortunate is the fact that Jamie always had a strong "interest in health and prevention." An Ohio native, she traveled the world as an Air Force brat before settling into her dietetics studies at the University of Akron. Specializing in renal medicine was more a matter of inspiration by example than anything. "I shadowed a renal dietitian in my internship that was a positive influence because she really loved her job," Jamie says.
This led to the world of kidney health, which satisfies Jamie's desire to be involved in helping make a long lasting impact on peoples' wellbeing. "I enjoy working with patients, long term versus an acute setting," she admits. "I was led into the renal field because it is very clinical, but you get to work with patients long term and really get to know them."
Managing kidney disease can be challenging, and it helps when the people you work with genuinely appreciate the process. "I truly enjoy getting to know my patients and joking around with them," she explains. "I have great patients."
Many of Jamie's patients come from the Navajo community, and while the language barrier can be a bit tricky at times, the opportunity this gives her to share a new tradition makes it all worth it. "I really enjoy learning about the Navajo Native American culture," she says.
It's this commitment to making a personal connection that highlights Jamie's unique approach to patient care. "I take time and listen to them," she says. "I try to show understanding, and I compromise with the dietary restrictions. My approach is figuring out how we can get the outcomes we need with the least amount of restrictions and binders."
Information is power, and that's something Jamie loves to share. "I try to make to a difference in my patients' lives by educating them on how they can take care of themselves by following their diets, and helping them stay as healthy as they can for as long as they can."
A true healer, Jamie says the most satisfying element of her work in renal dietetics has less to do with her and everything to do with others. "Honestly, the most rewarding aspect of my job is when one of my patients gets a kidney transplant," she admits. "They are missed, but I am so happy for them that they don't have to come to dialysis three times a week anymore. And then it is so much fun if they come and visit to say hello and let us know how they are doing."
And while we tend to focus on how hard it can be to follow the kidney regime, it's important to remember we've got people cheering on our every success. "It's also rewarding when a patient decides to take care of themselves and take their binders when they haven't, or follow their diet when they weren't, and it shows in their lab work," adds Jamie.
Jamie believes that fostering an upbeat outlook is the single most important thing her patients can do to improve their health. "It's about enjoying life and having a positive attitude," she says. Often, that comes down to being willing let go and just play. One of the ways she helps her patients do this is by encouraging them to have fun with games like Phosphorus Bingo.
Since we're only ever as strong as the team we belong to, Jamie's especially grateful for her DaVita family. "I love the team approach -- working so closely with the social worker, nurses and nephrologists to give the patients the best possible care," she says. "I am also thankful for the online resources, like the Dietitian Connection. I know other companies don't provide the level of support we get from DaVita."
That support clearly goes both ways, since Jamie gives as good as she gets. Case in point, her Chicken Pasta with Brussels Sprouts, a filling, nutritious meal that's kidney friendly and also happens to be sinfully delicious.