Dynamic Renal Dietitian: Frances Rodriguez, RD, CSR
January 5, 2018
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Taking Time to Share the Knowledge She’s Gained
When kidneys fail, dialysis keeps the body in balance by removing waste, salt and extra water to prevent them from building up in the body. Dialysis also helps kidneys keep a safe level of certain chemicals in the blood, such as potassium, sodium, and bicarbonate, according to the National Kidney Foundation. The management of these minerals is one of the key tasks of a renal dietitian.
“I used to be so worried working with renal patients,” said Frances Rodriguez, RD, CSR, who started her career working in acute care. “But it’s not as difficult as people think it is, you just have to be passionate about it.”
After completing 2,000 hours working with renal and dialysis patients, Frances decided to take the Academy’s exam to obtain the Certified Specialist in Renal (CSR) certification.
“This certification lets people know that you are proficient in renal nutrition,” said Frances who has worked for two and a half years as a renal dietitian in California.
Frances, who completed her nutrition education in Puerto Rico, states the CSR credential is a confidence boost for her personally and professionally. She says renal nutrition is a complex field, but it’s not as difficult as people think it is. She takes advantage of every opportunity she has to tell other dietitians about the field and conduct in-services in inpatient settings.
“Now that I have this knowledge, I don’t like to keep it to myself!” she said.
A renal dietitian’s role
A renal dietitian is a crucial part of a dialysis patient’s care team, along with the physician and nurses. The renal dietitian spends time reviewing labs and then talking with patients about the lab results.
“If a laboratory value is out of range, for example, phosphorus, the dietitian is responsible for educating the patient about sources of phosphorus in their diet and how to take their medications (phosphorus binders) to keep their levels within range and avoid complications,” Frances said.
She enjoys the autonomy and authority she’s given among the physicians she works with, which is different from what she experienced working at a hospital.
“In the dialysis setting, they trust you. They truly know that you are the expert in this field,” she said. “And it feels really good.”
Frances also loves the flexibility and no-rush atmosphere for patient education in the dialysis setting. Patients on dialysis are at the facility for several hours, meaning if someone comes in and they’re not feeling talkative, the dietitian can wait a few hours and come back later when the patient is more receptive to the information she has.
“Dialysis is a life-sustaining treatment, not a cure. You have to keep in mind that you are just helping them to avoid complications and improve their quality of life,” she said. “But I love that I get to have an ongoing relationship with my patients.”
What Makes A Good Renal Dietitian
One of the most important characteristics for a renal dietitian is compassion. Undergoing dialysis is a huge adjustment in a person’s life.
Because of this, a renal dietitian must recognize that their main goal is managing the patients’ physical state, their quality of life and preventing complications. There is not much chance for total recovery.
Recently, Frances took advantage of an opportunity to do an in-service on renal patient care at a colleague’s hospital. Her colleague wasn’t very familiar with treating renal patients in the acute care setting because she didn’t encounter it often. Frances is always happy to share her knowledge.
“It can be challenging if you don’t deal with it often,” she said of the renal diet. But she found once she started digging into the material and learning more about it, she knew she was in the right place. “I immediately felt it was my calling,” she said.
Awards and Engagements
Frances also had the experience of being invited as a speaker at the 2017 Annual National Symposium of the National Association of Nephrology Technicians in Las Vegas, NV where she spoke to technicians about the importance of renal nutrition and how to help patients to adhere to their diet.
In 2017 Frances was nominated by the President of the CAND-Inland Districts to apply for the Young Dietitian of the Year award! Her application included three letters of reference proving she demonstrates leadership and commitment to the profession. And she won! The image at the top is Frances proudly displaying her award.
“It was an amazing experienced being recognized in front of other colleagues and my family, especially because I have sacrificed a lot to be where I am today,” Frances said. “I will say it was one of the happiest days of my life.”
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