Red meat in moderation is a wonderful source of protein, if it’s included in your diet guidelines. Imagine a warm, seasoned steak filling inside a taco. Sound like heaven? It’s only as far away as your kitchen, and it’s dialysis-diabetes approved! Authentic Steak Tacos are courtesy Jessica of Kansas.
DaVita dietitian, Jessica, grew up on a farm in Ottawa, a rural community in Kansas, and that’s where she says her interest in food and healthy lifestyles first began. That interest led her to Kansas State University, and a Bachelor of Science in Human Nutrition, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Dietetics. At Vanderbilt University Medical Center, Jessica completed her dietetic Internship. She is currently working on her Masters in Public Health degree at University of Kansas Medical Center. “I completed my clinical case project of my dietetic internship on a young, renal patient,” says Jessica, “which sparked an interest in the importance of preventative measures to avoid or delay the progression of kidney disease. I found it extremely satisfying to specialize in an area where diet was critically important.”
There are many rewarding aspects to working in the renal field. Jessica comments, “I find it most rewarding when patients express their appreciation/gratitude for the time I spend educating them, and helping to reach and maintain recommended outcomes.” Forming individualized relationships and finding ways to connect with each and every patient is the way Jessica tries to make a difference. “I enjoy the FUN activities we do in our clinics such as bingo, and seasonal holiday parties where we get to show patients how much we appreciate them!”
Jessica describes her approach to working with patients: “I think it is important to understand that dialysis in general is overwhelming. The renal diet, along with other clinical aspects, adds even more. In my opinion, what people eat is very personal. I try to be emphatic and non-overwhelming by encouraging patients and letting them know we’ll work together to establish diet recommendations while still including their favorite foods. I think, most importantly, patients need to be involved in their health. They must be their own number one advocate and ask lots of questions to understand what is going on currently and what to expect in the future. It’s about self-education.”
This is Jessica’s fifth year with DaVita. “My first position was in Pensacola, Florida, and I was able to transfer back home to Kansas with DaVita a couple of years ago. I enjoy most the feeling of working as a team! The teammates I have worked with and work with currently have become like family. As a dietitian I feel like we have excellent leadership and support from the very top (Debbie Benner), to both our area dietitians and to our local dietitian teams along with numerous and wonderful educational pieces. I was most surprised to learn we can truly make a difference in the lives of our patients and their families. It is extremely rewarding and self-fulfilling. On the other hand, patients and their families can also make a difference in our lives. I’ve become a more effective and knowledgeable caregiver thanks to the time spent with my patients.”
“My most memorable moment as dietitian with DaVita is the KAT Kidney Awareness Time) Walk we hosted in Pensacola, Florida in 2007. It was such a wonderful feeling to see the involvement of our patients, our teammates, our nephrologists, and our community as we raised awareness of kidney disease and the importance of prevention in our local communities. I keep the photo album of that particular event in my office and it always brings a smile to my face to look back and to see all of the patients and families who were able to participate.
Jessica’s center is a large clinic, located in Lenexa, Kansas, that provides care to both in-center and at-home patients. She stresses that they have a wonderful and knowledgeable team. “Our administrator is fantastic and promotes teamwork and continuous improvement while having FUN,” she enthuses. “Our clinic was acquired by DaVita about 2 ½ years ago and our clinical outcomes were extremely low in comparison to other DaVita clinics. The acquisition by DaVita was a very positive experience for both the teammates and the patients. Not only did the standard and quality of care improve, but the patients benefited from better clinical outcomes.”
Jessica’s Authentic Steak Tacos will give not just the real flavor of Mexican food, but real nutrition, too!