Having a passion for helping people live better lives through nutrition led Vicki, a DaVita dietitian from Virginia, to get her master’s degree in the dietary field. Vicki shares, “I completed my masters’ thesis on the caloric requirements of renal patients. In 1986, Dr. Joel Kopple (former President of the National Kidney Foundation, M.D. and Professor of Medicine at Harbor UCLA Medical Center in California) heard my research presentation in Washington, D.C. and encouraged me to publish it.” This was a proud moment for Vicki and also confirmation she was on the right career path.
Vicki’s no-nonsense philosophy has proven to be very successful in getting results for her patients. “My approach is straight forward: Here is what you need to do. You can live a long time this way.” She is very proactive with her patients and believes that basic knowledge of nutrition makes all the difference. “I empower them to care about their renal health,” states Vicki.
Adjusting to a kidney diet is challenging for most patients, and Vicki carefully educates them on the importance of their dietary choices. “The most important thing a patient can do to improve their health is to understand and care about their numbers.” Part of managing kidney disease is to balance a patient’s potassium and phosphorus levels. This is often a new concept for renal patients and, understandably, it takes time to figure out this new way of selecting foods lower in potassium and phosphorus to help patients stay as healthy as possible.
Not only does Vicki work personally with each of her patients, but she also assigns them another DaVita teammate who supports them in the educational process. Vicki’s diligence and skill have helped the patients at her DaVita dialysis center achieve better health. “I transferred to this DaVita dialysis center in January 2007.The scores for bone and mineral metabolism (measures bone health and levels for phosphorus, calcium and PTH) here were pretty low at 17. Our March 2007 score was 26.4 — the highest in the region.” Vicki recognizes her center’s exceptional performance is the product of hard work by her co-workers. “Our administrator and teammates continue to improve on a daily basis. It is about competency and caring,” states Vicki.
Another fulfilling aspect of Vicki’s career is the work environment. DaVita has a wealth of information for patients and dietitians. There are informative articles and recipes for patients on the DaVita.com website, in addition to the crucial information and tools for a healthy life that DaVita dietitians provide for their patients. Vicki believes, “DaVita is a business, but still, through their core values, the company cares about the teammates and patients.”
Vicki’s greatest joy at work is watching her patients succeed in their goals. Each month patients receive their lab work, which is like a report card for how well they are managing their dialysis diet. Vicki shares, “I enjoy seeing patients faces when they have a report card of smiley faces.” According to Vicki, the secret to her success is “I enjoy what I do and the patients can see how much I care. That makes all the difference.”
Vicki’s Baked Fish ala’ Mushrooms is a healthy, gourmet recipe that is delicious and easy to make. It is flaky, fresh and a great addition to your dialysis diet menu.