One of my favorite things about being an “almost dietitian” is that there are so many career options: clinical, community, communications, and food service to name a few. The possibilities seem endless! Along with fellow University of Maryland dietetic interns, I recently visited a DaVita Dialysis Center in Annapolis to learn about renal nutrition from several Registered Dietitians (RDs) and other experts.
Fellow intern, Julia, and me at our renal nutrition class day.
The day started out with a brief dialysis overview which touched on the different stages of Chronic Kidney Disease (CKD), including when dialysis is needed (stage IV and V), and what the dialyzer does and how it works. It really helped me understand the incredible filtering capability and limitations of the dialyzer, which will be helpful when I am counseling patients. The next speaker dove a little bit deeper into the stages of CKD by explaining how nutrition needs are different in each stage. She also discussed different options for dialysis home modalities. Before this day, I had no clue that doing dialysis at home was even an option! How cool – and convenient!
Next on the agenda was the renal nutrition lecture which covered calorie, protein, fluid, and mineral (specifically sodium, phosphorus, and calcium) requirements for patients receiving dialysis and their “lab value goals.” I learned that no two patients are alike. It is important for RDs to tailor their care to fit each individual’s lifestyle and meet their specialized needs. As the disease progresses, patients’ needs will likely change, and dietitians can help them transition their diets.
The last speaker talked to us about the role of a renal dietitian at DaVita including their day-to-day responsibilities, their electronic medical record system, and what to expect when working with dialysis patients. This lecture was particularly valuable because it opened my eyes to what life would be like as a renal dietitian.
During the day, DaVita’s divisional vice president popped in to welcome us, share his experience working with DaVita, and answer our questions. All of the speakers seemed very passionate about their work and were very knowledgeable. Overall, I learned a lot from this day and feel more prepared for my renal rotation. I am looking forward to learning even more during my renal rotation next month.