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Renal diet challenge for Cork hospital staff

CUH staff who participated in the renal diet challenge

CUH staff who participated in the renal diet challenge

Hospital staff had to walk in the shoes of some of their patients recently when they took part in a one-day challenge, following a strict renal diet for 24 hours. The 24-hour renal diet challenge was the brainchild of Eileen Duff, Renal Dietician in Cork University Hospital.

“Asking staff to follow a patients’ recommended diet for the day should be easy, right? I mean, as dieticians, we educate patients about diet on a daily basis, speak with them about restrictions and provide advice that is practical and easy to implement, yes?” explained Eileen.

“I challenged hospital staff, mainly from Cork University Hospital and the Midland Regional Hospital, to follow a renal diet for 24 hours. This involved modifying the potassium, protein, phosphate and salt content in their diet for the day and the aim was to step into a patient’s shoes for the day.”

She said that after taking part in the challenge, her empathy towards the daily decision-making around meals, complexities around food choice and considerations such as activity or family on a renal diet, ‘could not have changed more’.

“This opened my eyes to the renal diet in a way I could not have envisaged. My fantastic dietetic, medical and nursing staff colleagues, who took on this challenge, felt this too,” she said.

“I felt the support on the day was great. Patients gave tips from their experience which really helped,” said one staff member after completing the challenge.

“I found the www.irishkidneydiet.ie website a fabulous resource for recipes.”

Another said, "Meal planning is a necessity to ensure protein is distributed over the day.

“Once I knew what alternatives I could have, I found cutting down on my coffee intake better than expected on the day”

Food choice was a key focus on the day. To help with this, staff used twitter to discuss recipe ideas, share photos of meal plans and support each other on the day. Chicken curry recipes, lunchtime wrap ideas and shepherd’s pie creations were all shared, discussed and creativities complimented.

“As a result of this challenge, I have particular empathy for patients who have an additional fluid restriction, illness or modified texture diet as these can impact dietary intake further. To assist this, the new Food Nutrition and Hydration policy is currently being rolled out in Irish hospitals to help patients have access to dietary options suitable for their needs,” said Eileen.

It is important to note, while this challenge provided participants with an insight into the complexities of the renal diet, it was only for a brief set period of time. 

After the 24 hour challenge, a feedback survey was completed. It found that staff felt the exercise improved staff knowledge of the content and challenges of a renal diet and increased their empathy towards patients.

“This promotes an understanding that our patients can require support with their dietary restrictions and that just because a diet is ‘prescribed’ doesn’t mean it is easy. The ability to now share recipe ideas, meal planning tips and advice on coffee alternatives will allow patients to receive information and advice from staff on their dietary needs that enhance their nutritional intake and promote overall enjoyment of their daily nourishment,” added the renal dietician.