CDM, CFPP of the Month - April 2016

Tara Brabson, CDM, CFPP

Name: Tara Brabson, CDM, CFPP

Job Title: Dietary Director

Employer: Shannondale's Knoxville Campus

Job Location: Knoxville, TN

Years at Current Facility: 20

Years in Current Position: 1.5

CDM Since: 2004

Why did you decide to become a CDM, CFPP?

I started working for Shannondale when I was 18 years old. I have worked here for 20 years. I began as a dietary aide and moved up to a dietary supervisor position. I served as a dietary supervisor for one year before being promoted to Assistant Dietary Director for our skilled care unit. When I took the assistant position, the Dietary Director told me at that time, ''you are young, but with time and training, you will be good.'' The Dietary Director also spoke to me about getting my CDM. I knew I loved my job and so while holding that position for thirteen years, under two different Dietary Directors, I received my Certified Dietary Manager credential from the University of Florida in October 2004.

Then, when the Dietary Director of the retirement home retired, I was asked by our CEO if I would be interested in taking that position. Even though I loved the position I was in, I  knew in order for me to grow, I needed to step out on my own. Going to the retirement center (which was an independent living setting) was so different, but in a good way. It gave me the chance to be more creative with plate presentation, garnishes, decorating the dining room based off the holidays, and to come up with special meal items. It also gave me a chance to know all the residents on a one-on-one basis.

About 18 months ago the second Dietary Director retired, whom I had also worked under. The CEO came to me again and asked me about taking that position to be in charge of a skilled care unit with an employee cafeteria, assisted living and our newly constructed, state of the art, rehabilitation facility (Well Park at Shannondale). I felt so honored that the CEO and the administrator believed in me and my skills.  I knew I could not let this opportunity pass me by! At the same time, I enjoyed the retirement home and I still wanted to play a part in that setting, so I asked the CEO if I could continue to oversee the retirement setting as well. I was allowed to do so. One advantage of working at all the buildings is that you get to know how each setting is run. Another advantage was that I knew that I had worked under two Dietary Directors with outstanding experience. I am so thankful for their guidance during their time.

What are your main responsibilities in your current position?

Currently my key responsibilities are to oversee each Dietary department on the campus to make sure each day-to-day operation is running smoothly, which includes making sure scheduling is covered for all positions, payroll, hiring, monitoring turnover and retention, performing sanitation audits, training development,  employee relations and performance management. Other responsibilities include nutrition consulting, care plans, meal planning, inventory control, budgeting and purchasing. Additionally, I interact with numerous employees and residents on a daily basis. I feel communication and customer service are important functions of my position. Within the short time of being in my current position, dietary has displayed a variety of fantastic options at our buildings to choose from. We prepare omelets and pancakes to order in front of the residents, come up with special meals based off the holidays, bake fresh baked good to the residents weekly, and offer the soup wagon where we make two homemade soups and serve them during meal times.     

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

We actually started the menuMATRIX program back last August 2015 at our assisted living center. What I had to do was to get all my staff trained on using the program. This was a challenge because I had one or two employees who had never even had to turn on a computer or a tablet before. In the past, the residents would mark their paper menus and turn it in to the kitchen. But now the residents actually see a dietary-aide or a cook who is there to take their menu order in person. Not only will it save on the amount of paper we use every day, but it also give the employee one-on-one interaction with the resident.  The menuMATRIX program includes taking resident’s orders using smart tablets at the table. Once an order is placed, the meal tickets are pulled up on a smart TV in the kitchen.

What is your favorite part of your job?

My favorite part of my job is interacting with the residents and empowering my awesome staff to develop their skills. I am constantly researching skills in my field by completing articles and online courses through ANFP.  In return, I can come back and update my staff with knowledge, updated regulations, and dietary standards.  I love their response and the participation from my staff during in-service trainings. I like to make it fun for them, but also have them learn from it as well. Then, at the end of the training, they have to tell me what they have gained from the session. Through good leadership, I try to teach all staff and guide them to be professionals and have good interpersonal skills. Each employee is different so it is very important to learn the personalities of all sixty individuals on a working basis, which allows me to help them achieve their full potential. I am so grateful to have a staff that gives their all in each building. During Christmas for the last past five years, my husband and I have stayed up late at home preparing a Christmas meal to bring in to show my gratitude for all the hard work they do all year.

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

It is interesting to see how foodservice has changed over the years from wearing all white uniforms to wearing any color scrub tops to chef jackets. I also feel that foodservice is gearing towards more of a home-like setting during dining times and more one-on-one customer service interactions. Whatever is coming down the pike, I am looking forward to it.