CDM, CFPP of the Month - November 2015

Jen Wright, CDM, CFPP
Name: Jen Wright, MA, CDM, CFPP

Job Title: Director of Nutritional Services

Employer: Grace HealthCare of Clarksville

Job Location: Clarksville, Tennessee

Years at Current Facility: 2

Years in Current Position: 2

CDM Since: 2004

Why did you decide to become a CDM, CFPP?

I started a new career search as my position as Administrator for Outpatient Diagnostics was absorbed by a local hospital facility. Based on years of experience cooking, supervisory experience, and a wonderful reference by my pastor, Philip Trent, I started a new job as a dietary manager in a nursing home. As part of the hiring process, I was told that I would be expected to complete the dietary managers course with a passing score within one year of hire date. I accepted the challenge as this created an open door to a new career path for me.

After finishing the University of Florida Dietary Managers Course in 1999, with Ms. Ruby Puckett as my Instructor, I found that my employer was only interested in my attaining the knowledge. Therefore, I worked for two years without the actual certification. This was frustrating for me as the consulting RD still had to sign off on all my assessments, etc. I wanted full rights and the ability to exercise the entire scope of practice as a CDM. My husband and I agreed that I should make the investment and take the exam. So finally...I had the credentials and joined the association in 2004.

What are your main responsibilities in your current position?

My main responsibilities are to ensure the day-to-day operations in the dietary department are a success. This includes new resident entries, quarterly assessments, MDS, care planning, food procurement, attending meetings including Risk Meetings, Safety, QAPI, Food Committee, food related activity functions, and holiday meal planning. I review and approve menu changes within our Crandall Menu Cycle choices and visit with residents for preferences and concerns. I work closely with the consulting RD. Being survey ready every day is a focus as well. I do a thorough walk through of the kitchen, stockrooms, and dining room at least three times a week for a documented audit of equipment and product. Of course, I have to mention whatever duties assigned or required by my immediate supervisor.

What is an example of an innovative way you have made change at your facility and how did you implement it?

Residents deserve a home-like and friendly environment when being faced with health-related issues that make it necessary to choose a skilled facility or nursing home. I work with the Administrator to ensure "fine-dining" with colorful china, linen tablecloths and napkins with table decor at every meal. I include a wide variety of "always available" meal choice options for residents to have something they truly want to eat each day. This is what I fondly call my "tender-touch" program.

Another new process I have successfully implemented and will be bringing to this facility is the start of the "room service" mobile food cart. We are a couple of weeks away from the roll out and are currently waiting anxiously for delivery from Direct Supply of the necessary equipment especially designed for us. The food will be loaded on the cart from the main kitchen and transported to the skilled/rehab hall and therapy department for the initial start-up. Residents will select from their room service menu with fresh and hot foods readily available at point-of-service. The mobile cart will also be used in the main dining room and special events. Getting away from the old tray-line process is my main goal for this exciting process.

What was your first job in the foodservice industry?

Actually my first job was to watch closely as my mother and grandmother cooked on a wood stove and made the best foods in an iron skillet and various kettles with foods from the hen house, smoke house, and large family garden. My first paid job was "flippin' burgers" and making "curly fries". Then I went to old fashion restaurant dining and made everything from scratch. This was followed by "fine-dining" in the Hilton Hotel industry.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your position and how do you handle them?

The biggest challenge for me is having enough hours in the day to do all I want to do for the residents, staff, and guests. For the residents and guests, I want desperately to have the best plate set in front of them for every meal. It may be their last. If it's a burger plate they want right at that moment, let's make it a gourmet feast!

For staff, I want them to take pride in what they do and use their time and talent wisely. That's my desire, and the challenge is instilling that same desire or sense of pride in each employee. The available pool of applicants is really changing and work ethics are totally different in today's society. I know that many of my fellow CDM's voice the same struggle with this concern.

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is being allowed the freedom to make changes that will benefit the facility dining program. Working at Grace Healthcare and with my Administrator, Dwight Osteen, allows me to share a vision and know that he desires that same forward-thinking in today's healthcare market. The old days of a nursing home serving "balls" of scooped foods, strictly portioned without any changes, are long gone. Moving forward with choices and input from the residents are the new paths we must follow. Resident satisfaction is paramount for building census, having return clients, family involvement, and happy stakeholders. I love seeing those smiles and happy faces at work, just the same as for my family sitting around our own table at meal time.

How do you stay up to date with current innovations and trends?

We are really fortunate with the internet and access to thousands of informative sites with ready available venues to choose from. I value my publications including ANFP Nutrition & Foodservice Edge; FoodService Director magazine; and other e-publications. I try whenever possible to attend Regional and ANFP National meetings and other food shows. I participate in Crandall webinars and read any nutritional reviews available. I did not want to box myself in by staying with the same pattern of thinking. Therefore, I accepted opportunities to advance my learning with becoming a “pilot” in new foodservice techniques such as culture-change and person-first training, becoming part of “mock surveys”, and providing nutritional support to other facilities. I shared my knowledge but gained a wealth of new ideas by observation and becoming involved with other cultures and travels. I want to know what the competition offers and if and how it could make my processes better. I love taking pictures of food presented in various restaurants and duplicating that “wow” factor. Finally, if I want to know; I ask, I’m always willing to learn.

How do you envision the food service industry in the next few years and foodservice?

With impending changes especially for Seniors; trending should be the combination of safe and healthier foods. Schools and hospital programs will be striving to keep abreast of all the latest innovations for promoting healthier choices as well.

Foodservice is a career path that is worthy of a new look. Gone are the days of looking for a warm body to run a kitchen or dining area. Chefs and culinary training are important when looking for the right person. "Eating with our eyes" is being replaced with "eating with a trained eye" as the public are becoming more aware of new food trends. Norms are now expected to have highlights and test our taste buds with new adventures in dining.

What is your advice to those just getting started in the food service industry?

My advice...never stop learning! Seriously, if there is an opportunity for a webinar, seminar, conference, new publications, or training, go for it! Be a sponge. New knowledge will only enhance what you bring to the table. Use the old school ideology of "pick me, pick me" anytime a volunteer is needed.

Finally, take pride in what you offer. Plate presentation is an extension of you and your organization. Would you give that same plate to your parent, grandparent, child, or friend? Will you see that pleasure in their eyes as they recognize a familiar taste or find a new favorite dish as you present the entree and say, "enjoy your meal"?

Strive for excellence and you will be rewarded, personally and professionally!