By Sara Hall
Most students usually just want a job after graduation. Sara Wade, an Eastern ’11 graduate, got just that and more -- she had a position created for her at Kirby Medical Center in Monticello, Ill.
Before Wade, now director of Kirby’s food and nutrition services, arrived, Kirby Medical Center only hired contract dietitians and had no permanent dietitian in the hospital. Wade, who had worked three years in the hospital’s registration and HR offices, knew just how helpful having an on-staff dietitian would be for patients, so she presented them with information on medical nutrition therapy and inpatient support.
Wade at work
The administration acknowledged her concerns and made an agreement that when their contracted dietitian services agreement was over and when Wade finished her master’s degree in dietetics at Eastern, she would be the first on-staff dietitian at Kirby Medical Center.
Wade, who completed her undergraduate work at Illinois State University, said she has taken pieces of her Eastern career into her real-life career, keeping many of the binders and special projects she had from classes during her graduate study now in the cabinets of her office. Once, when she asked to write a grant for the Chronic Disease Prevention Program, she reached up and grabbed one of her binders to use as the skeleton for the grant.
Although every day is different for Wade, she said she mainly divides her time at Kirby Medical Center between working with outpatient references, editing menus and following up on inpatient needs, like diet education or medication and nutrient reactions.
During inpatient assessments, Wade makes sure patients are all screened for nutritional risks, and those with risks receive a comprehensive nutritional assessment, including a diet history analysis and any specific education for medicines and special therapy diets they may need.
For outpatient sessions, Wade primarily focuses on the chronic disease for which the patient is being treated. Conditions, like cholesterol can be changed through behavior modification to improve a patient’s health.
Wade said she loves instilling knowledge into those who are struggling with their health and helping them make daily lifestyle changes, both big and small.
“I love making a connection with the outpatient and seeing that light bulb go off when someone sees how to make a change in their current lifestyle,” she said.
That’s Wade’s vision for Live Well, the community nutrition education program she coordinates, too: for the public to come together to change their behavior for nutrition and fitness. Getting healthy on your own can sometimes be overwhelming for people, and Live Well can be the support system some people need, Wade said.
“Nutrition and fitness is a daily challenge for everybody, no matter what your current physical state or maintaining your physical state, so it’s really easy to share your personal stories and experiences with participants and have good feedback that way,” she said.
When Wade leaves Kirby Medical Center for the day, she finds time for herself the moment she walks in the door. She might enjoy a glass of red wine, work on her garden and or take a walk along the Sangamon River with her husband and dog. Then it’s back to work — not that Wade minds; another day is another chance for her to help others live a healthier life.
“It’s rewarding to see patients when they do make changes in their life and its not that big of a challenge,” she said. “It’s actually quite easy.”