CDM of the Month

Alice Christensen, CDM, CFPP

Name: Alice Christensen, CDM, CFPP

Job Title: Certified Dietary Manager

Employer: Clay County Medical Center

Job Location: Clay Center Kansas

Years at Current Facility: 29

Years in Current Position: 15

CDM Since: 1993

Why did you decide to become a CDM?

I wanted to advance with my position as a head cook. I was very interested in learning more about foodservice, particularly the management field, which I knew would be a challenge. The opportunity opened when the current manager retired.

What are your main responsibilities in your current position?

I handle all the ordering and scheduling and the main decision making. I also manage dietary employees, handle the budget, do the QA reports, administrative reports and manage the employee in services.

How do you organize your time at work to make sure you accomplish all your responsibilities?

Well some days it is tough. I feel I am very work driven and love to see work tasks finished. I try to stay focused on what needs to be done for that day. Each day I write down what I need to work on getting accomplished. It also helps to have deadlines and goals in mind to push towards. Delegation is also important to implement.

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

We have been slowly changing over to a more health conscious facility. We have joined the Healthy Kansas State of Wellness program. We provide an easy access vertical cold case that is supplied with a variety of healthy choice food items and beverages. Customers love the “grab and go” choices because they are quick for on the go people. We provide sandwiches, fresh fruit packaged, energy bites, boiled eggs, packaged cheese and crackers, roasted chickpeas and much more.

We highlight a weekly healthy item on the menu also. We try to focus on healthy as much as possible. We provide fruit infused water in three locations throughout our facility. I do feel that the key factors to keeping the positive changes rolling is to help employees understand the nutrition information and the benefits of eating healthy food, not the sacrifices to be made. Chips, cookies, desserts are an option also. The choice is up to the individual!

What was your first job in the foodservice industry?

My first foodservice job was in 1975. I worked in a small town nursing home my junior and senior year of high school as a dishwasher and dietary aid. I learned at an early age good work ethics and great cooking skills from the evening cooks.

Who has been your biggest mentor in foodservice and how have they helped shape your career?

My grandmother was there to support and teach me through a large portion of my life. I also respected my former Boss who hired me and gave me a chance in my career. She was a good “strict” boss who also taught me cooking skills and leadership skills.

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

I feel the biggest challenge is personal management of staff, and the challenges that can occur when disciplinary action needs to be taken. Personality conflicts can also be a problem! I try to treat everyone fairly and document and follow through with what I expect from everyone. The current economic challenges play a role in my budget and food price decisions. We have a locked in contract with a food vendor and I also order from our local grocery store, while following price differences there.

What is your favorite part of your job?

I do love to work and I love when a goal has been accomplished. I also love the versatility that a management position provides. There are so many things to accomplish each day, so I never get bored and the time passes by.

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

It helps to attend networking foodservice meetings that are held by our main food vendor. There are always fellow managers there to compare stories with. I have also joined the online ANFP program and follow the open forum discussions. Reading articles from various foodservice magazines also are very informative.

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

It is getting tougher to hire good, knowledgeable cooks and foodservice employees. Things are moving towards quick grab and go stations. I am sure the quickly advancing electronic technology field will play a big part in the food service area in the future also! Room service is moving fast into the foodservice industry. I expect our facility to implement this in the next few years. I see the dining halls looking at more for profit rather than just breaking even.

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

You must be willing to work hard and go above and beyond at times. You need to have passion for the work you do and find satisfaction from serving others and helping patients and customers. There are always new and exciting things to learn and cook with foodservice. The rewards will come with perseverance and sticking to the job at hand.