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Making a Difference: Suzanne C Cryst, RDN, CSG, LD

What is your mission/vision

Making a difference each day. To know at the end of a day, a resident’s quality of life has improved, burdens lifted, a smile has been shared… if even for a moment in time.

What have you done/are doing to make a difference in the lives of aging/older adults?

The time I have spent with aging/older adults has exposed me to many dedicated nutrition professionals and other interdisciplinary team members. My first administrator told me that all the pills in the world will not work if that resident does not have a certain optimal level of nutrition and hydration. Optimal – mid size word with a BIG punch. Nutrition professionals have the expertise to identify optimal and beyond…and we need to share that expertise. My second Certified Medical Director counseled me to walk softly, BUT carry a big stick so the message is heard. Knowledge is power, if shared.  The third influence was the dietetic professionals who showed me how to mentor, by example. I took those experiences and became involved in the Academy, Public Policy, and several local, state and national DPGs. With this exposure and help from my Medical Director, Quality improvement projects were developed and outcomes shared.

Sharing – Early focus of liberalization of meal plans and outcomes; Implementation of the standardized language and NCP; the focus of the New Dining Practice Standards and positive results; opportunities for nutrition students  to have “in-the-trenches” experiences, whether as a preceptor or intern experience; Standards of Practice/Standards of Professional Performance – they all spread knowledge of the importance of nutrition.

My involvement with the Medical Director Association included sharing information on inclusion of the nutrition professional in medical and nursing meetings, policy development, panel discussions, state and national meetings. With collaboration and sharing, the interdisciplinary team can understand the vision of what excellent nutrition care is, driving improvement in care, services and outcomes for aging/older adults.

What inspires you to continue your mission/vision?

What inspires me to continue is that nutrition does make a difference in quality and quantity of life. As the nutrition professional, being part of the interdisciplinary team provides a different dimension and focus into care and services. The “smile”, the “thank you”, and being able to see the identified interventions work toward meeting a goal.

What advice would you give to others who are trying to make a difference for aging/older adults?

 Key strengths – Listening, team building, being flexible, hone your critical thinking skills, do not be afraid to try new ideas and approaches. Embrace change, and think outside the box.

What one tip would you give nutrition care professionals that work with aging/older adults?

There is nothing cookie cutter about what we do. Each client, resident, patient is an individual and has the right to be treated as the unique individual they have become.

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