Why did you decide to become a CDM?
After working as a cook and an evening closer for a few years at a long-term care/rehab facility, the company felt that with the appropriate educational opportunities and guidance I could be a strong supervisor for the department. Feeling confident and determined, I accepted their offer as a Dietary Supervisor and went on to pursue my CDM.
What are your main responsibilities in your current position?
Most of my responsibilities in my current position revolve around being an advocate for the residents by providing them with the type of dining services and meal choices that they desire. While some residents prefer to stick to the types of foods they grew-up eating, I have discovered many of our residents still have the desire to try something new which is why I implemented the bi-monthly dining program, “Foods from Around the World”.
The other very important responsibility that my role takes is focused on providing a safe and sanitary environment for my staff to prepare the meals we provide. We are constantly completing departmental audits to assure we are providing our residents and visitors not only with a delicious meal, but one that is properly prepared in a sanitary environment.
How do you organize your time at work to make sure you accomplish all your responsibilities?
While I have always been great at multi-tasking and organization, the strongest tool I have for myself is a daily, weekly and monthly checklist. I organize the checklists in order of priority. If a resident has a concern or complaint, they are immediately moved to the top of my list and I address their issues first; my first focus is always on doing my best to make sure they are satisfied.
Another tool I have found to help make me be a successful manager is to complete required documentation a few days prior to the actual due date. I never allow myself to say, “I have a few more days/hours to complete this”, because in our line of work there are always surprises that can end up taking priority which then act as a domino effect when it comes to completing the necessary work.
What is an example of an innovative way you have made change at your facility and how did you implement it?
I implemented a bi-monthly program with the help of the activity department for the residents called, “Foods from Around the World.” This is a program where I sit down with a group of residents and have them try a new recipe from a culture elsewhere in the world and educate them on the background of the dish. We then offer to incorporate that dish into our menu cycle if the residents decide that it is a dish they would like to continue to enjoy. This program offers a great way for me to build one-on-one relationships with my residents, learn more about their backgrounds and the foods they enjoy, as well as offers an educational opportunity about other cultures/foods they may not get to explore elsewhere.
What was your first job in the foodservice industry?
For some strange reason, I was determined to have a job as soon as possible (oh if I only knew how much fun the “adult life” with responsibilities would be!) When I was growing up both of my parents worked in a long-term care facility near our house that I would often go to after school and wait for them so we could all go home together. Many of my afternoons were spent sitting on the floor of their offices doing homework or enjoying .25-cent ice cream cones in the employee break room. During this time, I would often walk the halls of the facility and visit with the residents. I can still remember my favorite resident was a gentleman that needed to use a communication board to talk. I enjoyed piecing together all the letters he pointed at to build his words and sentences. It was at the age of 15 when I obtained my first job as a pots and pans dishwasher in the facility in which my parents worked that I must credit for my foodservice experience.
Who has been your biggest mentor in foodservice and how have they helped shape your career?
My biggest mentor in the foodservice industry is also now my friend, Nancy Rheinfels Franck, whom is also a CDM. When I began working as a dishwasher at my first facility, she was a cook there. She eventually was given the opportunity to become a supervisor for the department and over the years and with her guidance she encouraged me to become a supervisor as well. She always took the time to explain to me why certain methods were safer than others when preparing meals for the residents or sanitizing items in the department. She was never an individual that let you leave a conversation feeling down about yourself or upset and she always took the time to hear your concerns.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your position and how do you handle them?
The biggest challenges I have had to encounter thus far in my career are when a facility/company have no desire to improve on the ways in which we provide services to residents, mainly regarding the change of making it a more “home-like” environment and eliminate the institutional ways of caring for people. The few times I have encountered this issue I have sat down with the administrator and provided materials and examples to help support my encouragement for change to provide better care for our residents.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My heart will always be with the people I care for. Hearing my residents’ stories and seeing their smiles are the reason why I love working in the foodservice/healthcare field. Every day I get to learn something new, if not pertaining to my job specifically, then how to appreciate life just a little bit more.
How do you stay up to date with current innovations and trends?
I am constantly trying to better myself and expand on my education to provide better care for others. I am an active student pursuing a degree in Business Management and recently passed the RCFE Administrator exam. I frequently attend workshops and professional development days offered in my community and actively volunteer with multiple organizations. I also enjoy traveling, networking and learning from others in all different aspects in life to see things in different perspectives.
How do you envision the foodservice industry in the next few years and foodservice?
I hope we as a culture continue to work towards providing the freshest and healthiest options for ourselves. I see us returning to farm fresh ingredients and steering away from processed and manufactured “food.” I do hope we increase the desire to provide younger generations the proper education on growing and caring for foods that we consume and grow in our own soil. I also hope that our culture begins to see and show more appreciation to those of whom work extremely hard to provide us with everyday nutrients that we often take for granted.
What is your advice to those just getting started in the foodservice industry?
Be open to learning and growing and being accepting of change. Without change and constant desire for “better,” there cannot be success.