Aim: Dietary modification is integral to the management of end stage kidney disease. However, adherence to the renal diet is poor. Few studies have explored the perspectives of renal dietitians and how they work with patients to facilitate dietary change. The objectives of this study were to explore the experiences of renal dietitians about educating patients with end stage kidney disease; and to describe the strategies perceived to help patients understand the renal diet.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews based on Sensemaking theory were conducted with renal dietitians (n=27) working in Australia and New Zealand from a range of metropolitan, regional and remote areas.
Results: Five major themes across two categories were derived from the data. The renal dietitians in this study experienced feelings of frustration, frequently worked in practice environments with limited or inadequate resources and perceived that establishing trust and demonstrating empathy were important to sense making. Renal dietitians helped patients make sense of and understand the diet by clarifying ambiguities and conflicting information; and simplifying complexity by using simple explanations, individualised advice and practical support. These strategies were considered critical to the renal diet sense making process.
Conclusions: The experience of providing renal diet advice to adults with end stage kidney disease was emotionally and professionally challenging. Alternative approaches to patient education may help dietitians to empower patients to better understand the renal diet. Further research exploring the experiences of learning about the renal diet from the patient and carer perspective would also help to inform future alternative approaches.