Infected with the need to serve: A shadow experience at Baptist Health (Richmond, KY)

You know, life is pretty awesome. Despite all my constant worrying about school and post-graduation plans, life can really be downright awesome. This past week I had the opportunity to shadow two dietitians at work. One of the dietitians, Beth Taylor, who I mentioned in passing in a blog post a couple weeks ago is a Berea College alumna and pursued her Masters in Community Nutrition from Eastern Kentucky University. My advisor, Dr. Blythe, helped me in making the connection with Beth when she came and spoke to a nutrition class at Berea College last spring. I knew as soon as I heard Beth talk about her team-centered approach to healthcare that she was someone I wanted to learn from. To be honest, hospitals had always sort of intimidated me. I don’t know why, they just did. And as well, I don’t think I really respected them and all the talented people who work in them. Yeah, some hospitals aren’t so great, but I would say many of them are because the employees in them are doing their best to ensure the patients get quality care.

This was my experience at Baptist Health in Richmond, KY this past week. I found the hospital to be of quality care and filled with nurses, doctors, and other professionals who were really concerned about their patients. Unfortunately I will not get to mention everything from my shadow experience, but I will try to touch on a few highlights.

Getting back to the team-centered approach – I found this to be very evident at Baptist Health Richmond. One of the first things the dietitians have to do every day is meet with the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) staff in a reporting session to be updated on the patients’ condition. Within the circle were the doctors and nurses, but also social workers, dietitians, and pharmacists. Before Beth and I went to the ICU unit we would gather what information we could from the hospital’s database, but at the report meeting we would get so much more information and be able to converse one-on-one with the doctor, nurse, or other professional (well, she would talk to them, I didn’t!! I just stood by listening attentively and looking pretty).

Another highlight of my experience was seeing the hospital’s back-of-the-house food service facility. Now, this may not sound too exciting to most, but for me it was a treat! Maybe this is mostly because I am currently job hunting and many jobs I am applying for involve institutional food service. Either way, Beth and I needed to check a few things out so we walked on into the kitchen, put on our hairnets, and did the work we needed to do. It may have been a short visit, but it was awesome nonetheless. Even more, Beth told me that she had worked with several of the kitchen employees at one point. And now they see her and she is the dietitian! She has the utmost respect for the workers in the kitchen because she has been there cleaning dishes right beside them. Although she has a few more credentials and experience under her belt, she never forgets where she came from and continues to show her appreciation for the work that the food service staff does.

I was only able to shadow for two days (although I would of every day if my schedule would allow it!). The second morning that I walked into the office it already felt natural. I walked in the door knowing what the day had in store. I understood the routines a little bit more. However, this is not to say that everything about the job is predictable. The other dietitian I had the opportunity was Saundra Roberts, who was working with out-patient care during the two days I was at the hospital. As she explained to me, most of the time the patients were 50-50; only about half the time would they show, if that! This can be a bit discouraging. However, despite this I did get to see Saundra in action with a couple patients. This was just as awesome as the in-patient work with Beth! It definitely is a passion of mine to share nutrition and health knowledge with people; to educate and to encourage healthy living.

One of the greatest lessons I learned from these experiences was having the opportunity to see how what I am learning really is used every day by the dietitians. I definitely don’t (yet) know half of what Beth and Saundra know, but I was surprised about how much I did know or could easily pick up on. I guess I was surprised because of my lack of nutrition education, however when you have a passion for something you will find ways to learn. I feel like this has been the case for myself, trying to soak up any nutrition education when I can and applying it to my own life.

I also learned, though, that there is only so much you can do for patients. You can try to explain what you know as simply as you can for patients and then you have to hope they will not only understand it but also that they will care enough about their health to take your advice. For me, I feel like this is the hardest part of the job to come to terms with. At the end of the day though, if you have done everything you can to help, that is all you really can do! We all make bad choices but we hope our patients will make the better choices.

I definitely felt welcomed at the dietitian’s offices. Every individual there was warm and helpful. Beth gave me resource upon resource that I look forward to putting into my own binders about medical nutrition therapy and nutrition counseling (I am a nerd, I know!!!). I have found that in the world of dietetics, many of us just want to help each other out. This has been true even for myself as I try to help fellow students along their pathway (more to come on this topic later). Why it is that we are all so eager to be mentors for others I don’t completely know, but I will venture a guess that it is because we love what we are doing. One of the most awesome things Beth told me at the end of the day during my second shadow day is that although she has had several students come shadow her, I was her most excited and interested student. WOW! I am so pleased that my passion for wellness exudes out of me enough for her to say this. It was truly a compliment.

Well, like I said, I can’t share everything I experienced at Baptist Health (you don’t want me to… I could write a novella). And I still have more experiences from this past week to reflect on, but I will let those thoughts ruminate a bit longer. For now, I will leave you with a couple photos of warmer days (I am looking forward to the Spring buds of flowers and trees and warm summer days!)

~Lauren

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Summer 2013, Tree Pose (Vrksasana) at the Dallas Arboretum
Photo credit to my lovely and talented sister, Ashley Cameron

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Ahhh… Utila, Honduras, Summer 2013 as well. It was just a good summer!
Photo credit to Anderson Sánchez (fellow classmate on my study abroad trip)

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