Why did you decide to become a CDM?
I knew I wanted to be a CDM because it would create the opportunities for me to create the fulfilling career I dream about. I thoroughly enjoy nourishing people and if I can help a patient feel the least bit better by providing delicious food, I know I did my job.
What are your main responsibilities in your current position?
In my current role, I oversee the patient food operation. I overlook a staff of 50 that work hard to ensure patients are fed every day. I work closely with dietitians to provide food that is palatable yet meets all patients’ dietary restrictions. I assist with monthly auditing, daily walk-throughs, and continuous trainings to provide a safe and sanitary kitchen for not only patient food but employees too.
How do you organize your time at work to make sure you accomplish all your responsibilities?
It was not easy figuring out the best system for me to keep track of all my responsibilities at first. However, between utilizing Outlook calendar (and their alerts!), a planner that I write all my notes in from meetings, and my Siri reminders on my work phone are all game-changers. Every day, I walk into work, open my planner, read and highlight what was written from the day before and cross off all that was completed. I put all immediate reminders on my work-phone so the alerts come directly to me. All important meetings go on my Outlook Calendar to remind me in the mornings.
What is an example of an innovative way you have made change at your facility and how did you implement it?
A new process my team and I put together was our dish room process. The goal of the new process was to eliminate any possibility of cross contamination and really hone in on infection control. The current process here for tray passing is we bring trays up for meals in the same trucks we pick up in. Therefore, it is imperative staff are sanitizing trucks thoroughly so the next meal service has trucks that are safe for patient food. It was easy putting the process together, but it was the implementation that was tough. My opener, my closer, and I really stayed on top of staff with being inside the dish room, following up, using disciplinary action when appropriate and just continuous coaching throughout the change. Now, it’s like second nature to the team.
What was your first job in the foodservice industry?
My first job in the foodservice industry was an amazing opportunity as the Quality Assurance Supervisor for Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, IL. I had the best summer learning the ins-and-outs to amusement park foodservice and really sharpened my skills for safety and sanitation. Whenever I’m asked where my love for the foodservice industry came from, I also revert back to the summer I spent with Six Flags.
Who has been your biggest mentor in foodservice and how have they helped shape your career?
A huge mentor for me was a professor I had in college, Oscar Oberkircher (Mr. O). He was the toughest professor I had throughout my four years but would tell our classes how we would be grateful for his class, and he was absolutely right. There was a term project where students had to create a restaurant from menu to executing mock restaurant opening in one of our main dining halls. I contemplated applying for a dietetic internship or going the foodservice management route. Mr. O and his class was the reason why I wanted to intern for Six Flags and the beginning of my foodservice management career.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your position and how do you handle them?
The biggest challenge I face in my current position is staffing. Currently, our hospital network implemented a hiring freeze due to a beautiful new facility opening. Due to employee turnover, vacations, and sick calls it can be incredibly difficult to figure out how to manipulate the operation to make sure it runs smoothly. Luckily with the help of my great management team, we work together to maximize efficiency without running overtime too high. I implemented an overtime log to make sure OT that is given out is at least as balanced as possible. I also am hands-on with the staff. If I’m needed in the dish room or help in our diet office, I am always willing.
What is your favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of my job is patient rounding. Although I meet patients that have dissatisfactions, the service recovery is the best part. A patient having a poor foodservice experience that is fixable and when addressed, it turns their whole hospital experience around is the best feeling.
How do you stay up to date with current innovations and trends?
Currently, I am finishing up a Master’s Degree in Healthcare Administration teaching me how to be a stronger leader and well-rounded in the healthcare industry as a whole. I take advantage of my company’s online webinars and courses. I recently decided to become OSHA 10 hour certified to be a better resource for safety in my workplace. Also, I read articles in the ANFP magazine, Edge, that comes out.
How do you envision the foodservice industry in the next few years and foodservice?
I envision the foodservice industry becoming much more health-oriented and technologically-advanced. Being that I am in the healthcare industry, I envision certain styles of cooking becoming obsolete such as cook-chill because clients are going to want more wholesome, fresh foods prepared in-house. In addition, the way foodservice workers communicate with each other and with patients will be much more technologically savvy. iPads are much more prevalent in hospitals but even more “smart” production equipment and smartphone apps to almost eliminate paperwork in the kitchens.
What is your advice to those just getting started in the foodservice industry?
My advice would be to soak up as many experiences as you can. If you are a student and there are extracurricular groups that you can get involved in, do it. You’ll meet people that will soon become great assets to network in your career. If you’re working, don’t be afraid to learn different aspects of an operation. Just because you are a patient services manager doesn’t mean you can’t learn retail or catering. It will make you more knowledgeable about the industry and you may even find a different aspect of foodservice you are passionate for!