Why did you decide to become a CDM?
I chose to become a CDM because I was interested in moving positions to a Nutrition Technician instead of a Food Service Technician. The position I am currently in now requires you to have your CDM. I wanted to continue to further my education and learn as much as possible with patient care, special diets, diagnoses, diabetes and also still be able to continue to work with staff on the floor. I was motivated to learn more about the clinical side of the foodservice industry and all the other in-depth knowledge that goes with that.
What are your main responsibilities in your current position?
My main responsibilities are: setting up the meal tally sheets for our staff for each meal, making sure that each patient is on the proper menu labeled with the proper patient identifiers, answering the phone, preparing and delivering late trays as needed, working hand in hand with our Registered Dietitian to make certain that every patient gets the needed attention from a Nutrition standpoint. I also work on end of the month paperwork that is required in our facility, monthly handwashing paperwork and any other tasks or projects I am asked to prepare. I also assist Karen Polson, RD, LDN with patient screens and RD referrals. I assist with provision of supplements for our patients, special diets and any dietary, food texture and equipment needs.
How do you organize your time at work to make sure you accomplish all your responsibilities?
For me, time management is very important especially in this job. It is a chain reaction because I am the beginning domino in the long domino effect. If my tally sheets with the forecast of food items are not out on time that puts the cooks/Food Service staff behind, which puts tray passing behind, which in turn puts the nursing staff behind as well. There is a lot of pressure with my position, but I thoroughly enjoy it. I have a set routine each day; I know what tasks I need to get done in the morning and which tasks that can wait until later on in the day. I always prioritize and have the most important tasks completed first. I also work with a great team and if I am running behind, they always step in to help! Each day is usually pretty different from the next.
What is an example of an innovative way you have made change at your facility and how did you implement it?
I recently created our pediatric menus from scratch instead of buying the pre-printed menu jackets I created a color page menu jacket with our pediatric menu choices on one side and a color page and nutrition information on the opposite side. The menu jackets that were pre-printed were discontinued and there were not a lot of other options as far as pediatric menu jackets, therefore I decided to create my own! Not only is it more fun and interactive for the pediatric patients but it also has the newest Nutrition information from the MyPlate website.
Since I have been in this position and over time I have been working on trying to put as many documents as possible on the computer (electronically) instead of documenting on paper. There is less clutter and less paperwork to keep track of. This has been implemented for the last approximately three years now with more documents added as needed which has helped tremendously with organization for us! An ongoing project for me is to keep our paper menus and tally sheets up to date. If there is a patient menu change than it is my responsibility to make sure the changes get made on both the menus and the tally sheets for staff. That would also be an ongoing implementation. I am currently very much involved in a huge project to streamline our tallying system. We are working on getting a computer/tablet to take upstairs with us to input patient menu selections by computer instead of by hand. Patients will still hand select their menus on paper but we will be entering them by computer into an excel spreadsheet to set up the tally sheets electronically instead of hand tallying them. By doing this it will automatically add up how many entrees, desserts and other items that are needed for patient tray line along with any special items needed. This will be saving us a great amount of time when it comes to getting a total number of meals for the staff to cook and also getting them the information for any special items promptly. This project has not yet been implemented but I am highly involved and I am hoping it can be implemented within the next six months.
What was your first job in the foodservice industry?
My first job in the foodservice industry was actually in the department I currently work in. I did not have any prior foodservice experience before this job. I started out as a Food Service Technician and after three years in that position I moved forward to become the Nutrition Technician and not long after became a Nutrition Technician II.
Who has been your biggest mentor in foodservice and how have they helped shape your career?
Truthfully, I have many mentors in my career. I would have to say my biggest mentor has and is currently Karen Polson, RD, LDN. She helped me through my CDM course by being my preceptor and is currently the Dietitian that I work hand in hand with every single day. She helps me gain new and useful knowledge on a daily basis!
What are the biggest challenges you face in your position and how do you handle them?
There aren’t very many challenges that I can’t overcome. The biggest one for me would have to be the overly hectic days with a higher patient count, a lot of surgical patients and the phone ringing non-stop. Those days, I sometimes get a little overwhelmed. However, I usually have help if I feel like I am getting to that point. We as a team always find a way to work together.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is being able to work with patients face to face every day knowing that I am communicating with them personally about how they’re feeling and what they’re up to eating along with staying in the guidelines of the current diet order. I enjoy being able to help patients in selecting their meals for the day by how they are feeling. Each person is different and it is important to me that I get to meet with patients face to face in order to get a better understanding of their situation as a whole, not just what kinds of foods they like but also their chewing abilities, or though process or if they’re able to see. That to me my absolute favorite! Knowing that I am making a difference in someone’s healing is essential to me.
How do you stay up to date with current innovations and trends?
In my opinion it is much easier to be able to follow the new innovations and trends. We have social media, magazines, newsletters and many other ways to get wind of anything new. I enjoy being able to sit down at home and read a magazine or an online social media article as long as they are noted to be evidence based information. Another great way that has been very helpful for me is all of the webinars that are offered. That for me has been the easiest way to stay current with any new developments.
How do you envision the foodservice industry in the next few years and foodservice?
Technology has and will continue to have a huge impact on foodservice. There are already many Hospitals, Nursing Homes and other places utilizing technology today. Another huge trend I have noticed more recently is doing as many procedures on an outpatient or 24 hour observation status instead of a full admission. I have been seeing a lot more of that happening recently as well with big or small types of procedures. I hope that with the advanced technology that continues to come out that we as Food Service workers never forget how important it is to have that face to face one on one communication with each patient or resident and how significant it is for the patient or resident to feel like they have even the slightest control over something. When you’re in the Hospital or even in a Nursing Home there are only so many daily tasks you have control over. So why not let food be one of the few that you do have control over with some face to face conversation daily about food likes, how they’re feeling and what sounds good to them. I feel like the foodservice industry will definitely be different in the next few years even with small changes such as different food types being served, new and unique recipes and also new combinations of foods as well.
What is your advice to those just getting started in the foodservice industry?
Go into a Food Service career with an open mind! Everyone you come across will almost always have a different idea from the last person you talked with. There are obviously standards and proper ways to do daily tasks but there may be and probably is more than one way to do it correctly! Make sure to ALWAYS ask questions if you want to know more information about any topic! Always look at the bigger picture, no matter what part of the foodservice industry you go into; always make sure to look at the person as a whole! Most importantly, have fun and enjoy your co-workers and the people you come in contact with!