Already a member of the healthcare field, it wasn't a huge leap for Sara Eve to switch her focus frominpatient psychiatric care to dietetics -- both branches do deal with the inside of a person, after all, and Sara Eve had long harbored a personal passion for nutrition. "I was already practicing a healthy, active lifestyle long before I was preaching about it, so it seemed like a good choice," recalls Sara Eve, a DaVita dietitian from Pennsylvania.
It was the next step that took some prodding. "When I was still a dietetic intern and undecided on my future career path, I actually coincidentally sat next to a Canadian RD (registered dietitian) on a long flight, and she told me that I would end up in renal, which I had no experience in at that point, and it turned out she was right!" marvels Sara Eve. "Later, when I graduated and worked in a large hospital, I was asked to cover the inpatient hemodialysis (HD) and peritoneal dialysis (PD) area for many months, and just grew to love the team dynamic of a dialysis unit. I really enjoyed forming relationships with the patients there. Now that I work in renal, I would never go back to working the medical or surgical floors in the hospital!"
Originally from a small, rural town in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Sara Eve's studies have taken her quite literally across the world. "With two Bachelors of Science and in pursuit of a Masters -- and a real desire to move around -- I've attended many colleges!" laughs Sara. "All told, I've attended University of Delaware, Kutztown University, one semester in Spain, Cedar Crest College and Immaculata University, where I am currently finishing up my Masters of Arts in Nutrition Education."
As contagious as Sara Eve's enthusiasm can be, she's pragmatic about the importance of staying grounded in her job. "I am the type who is always saying, 'Yeah, I can do that!' ... and then getting pulled in another direction." This insight into her own patterns of behavior helps her support those of her patients. "Sometimes, I feel that patients give up on themselves in the face of this chronic condition and daily struggles, but when I can help them rediscover their own ability to be strong and follow through, it is so rewarding," she says. "Their success is my success and my satisfaction."
It's that mix of commitment to care, compassionate support and humility that really defines Sara Eve's style as a dietitian. To wit, when asked how she makes a difference in her patients' lives, Sara Eve turns the question around: "They are the ones who do all the hard work -- I just cheer them on from the sidelines!"
It helps that she genuinely enjoys both her job and her patients. "I love the mix of people!" she enthuses. "We have about 130 patients (HD and PD), and I have patients younger than me who feel like kid-siblings. I have patients who are my age who feel like friends, and I have older patients who feel like aunts and uncles and grandparents."
Sara Eve is also a fan of the diversity of her clinic's location. "We have such a wide mix of ethnicities here," she notes. "Our city is a mixed salad of types of people, and I learn so much about others and myself from working in such a diverse environment."
And from her description of her working approach, it's clear why patients are such fans of Sara Eve in turn. "I emphasize that we -- both the patient and I -- need to be honest, practical and positive," she says. "No one wins if they feel that they have to fib to me about what they are eating or whether they are taking their medications, for example. I stress that if they can be honest with me, we can and will find a realistic solution to any diet or nutrition issue they have."
An atmosphere of non-judgment inspires Sara Eve's patients to open up to her. "I am NOT the diet police," she laughs. "I am a real person, and I know chocolate tastes good!"
And again, there's that pragmatic enthusiasm. "I really try to live in the real world with my patients," she notes. "I also prefer to be upbeat and encouraging all day, every day, in every patient interaction. It's just the kind of person I am."
When it comes to the all-important question of how can we most effectively improve our health, Sara Eve is very clear: "You must be invested in your own health! That is the same advice I would give anyone, even myself. The medical team is there for you, but your health must matter the most to you."
And how do we do that? "Make those doctor's appointments, listen to the advice medical professionals give you, ask for help or clarification ... quit smoking!" Sara Eve pauses for a moment. "For the most part, I think people know what they should do. It's placing value on it and finding the resolve to follow through that is challenging."
And because she empathizes with the struggles we all experience when trying to stay motivated and on track, Sara Eve adds the crucial element of fun. "I try to keep a full calendar of events, handouts, celebrations, games and prizes for the patients," she says. "We have several parties throughout the year for which I make homemade treats from the DaVita.com website, which always go over well. I started handing out "Phossie" awards this year for "Most Improved" and "Perfect" phosphorus labs of the year. I also give out little monthly tokens for perfect labs. We celebrate birthdays, "cath-a-ways," holidays -- anything! And I always have hard candy on me -- everyone likes that!"
Sara Eve is quick to point out that she's been on the receiving end of that generosity of spirit more than once in her year with DaVita, starting from her very first day at the center. "After two weeks of training in other facilities, even though it was a busy Friday and the week before Christmas, they got me a cake with 'Welcome Sara Eve' spelled out in jellybeans," she recalls. "The whole team sat in the break room, or poked their heads in, just chatting and getting to know each other a little bit. I was so nervous to start this new job, and just the way they welcomed me made me feel like I was in the right place."
Sara Eve says she also "really jives" with the DaVita culture as a whole. "We are encouraged to have fun at work, and I love and live that core value," she says. "And what company has "fun" as a core value?! That's awesome! I also love that DaVita values dietitians and our work so much; we can really help make such a difference in patients' lives, and it is acknowledged."
Speaking of making a difference, putting Shrimp Spring Rolls back on the kidney menu is something we can all acknowledge. Thanks, Sara Eve!