Why did you decide to become a CDM?
As I started to get older, I knew the physical demands of purchasing were beginning to take a toll, plus I wanted to do more than purchase and manage food inventory. So after speaking with my supervisor at the time, Beth Summers, COM, CFPP, at Hendricks Regional Health, I decided to begin the process of obtaining my certification.
What are your main responsibilities in your current position?
Currently, I am responsible for scheduling, interviewing, budgeting (product and labor), menu creation, policy writing, catering for hospital events, meal rounding, and financial reporting. I also serve on various hospital committees, including Infection Control, Performance Improvement, and Activities.
How do you organize your time at work to make sure you accomplish all your responsibilities?
I like to make to-do lists and check items off as I go throughout the day.
What is an example of an innovative way you have made change at your facility and how did you implement it?
Before I started, PMH had a kitchen staff, but all they did was prepare various food items and stocked them in a vending machine, or "the wheel," as the team grew to call it. So I began discussing with our CEO and Plant Engineering Director the idea of having a cafeteria-style line with hot and cold food items for our staff, patients, and community members. After some training for the dietary associates, and visits to other facilities, we opened a new cafeteria on September 1, 2011. The training and site visits were essential to get buy-in. The staff was nervous about the changes. They had never had to interact with the public in this type of setting before. But seeing other hospitals serve, tasty, high-quality meals gave them the confidence that is could be done. At the same time, we also expanded our room service offerings to the maternity department and then to our Med/Surg floor. It has been a win for everyone.
What was your first job in the foodservice industry?
I first started in food service working for Dairy Queen, McDonald's, and 76 Truck Stops as a line cook. In 1987, I began at Hendricks Regional Health (back then, Hendricks County Hospital) as their Food Distributor. I held that position for fifteen years. I was responsible for weekly inventory, ordering, stocking, using first-ln, first-out (FIFO) practices, and dealing with vendors. Back then, there were no computers to do online ordering. The salesman would hand key in item numbers and quantities using a phone; it was very labor-intensive and time-consuming. In 2001, I moved to rural Indiana and began working at White County Memorial Hospital.
Who has been your biggest mentor in foodservice and how have they helped shape your career?
I don't have just one; I have a family of extraordinary people that have inspired me along the way. Beth Summers, who encouraged me to go after my COM and Martha Rardin, RD, who was my preceptor when I took the online class, probably had the most significant impact. Jacque Maxson and Debbie Hahn helped me with training when I first became a CDM. Everything I know is because of those ladies. In my current role, Peg Madsen and Lynette Altman have helped me grow my management skills, pushing me to be a better CDM and supporting me with ANFP.
What are the biggest challenges you face in your position and how do you handle them?
I struggle with succession planning and trying to find the right fit for our department. Foodservice, in any circumstance, is a labor of love; add in healthcare, and it doubles the need to have the right person. I try
to encourage people to step outside their comfort zone and see how rewarding working in healthcare foodservice can be; how we can make such a significant impact on our patients' health and well-being during their stays.
What is your favorite part of your job?
I love interacting with our patients. I love listening to their life stories, how they have been married for 65-70 years, and hearing them speak with so much love for each other. Or learning that a patient may be celebrating a birthday while in the hospital, and then finding a little treat to give them and sing "Happy Birthday" to t hem. And doing the same for my co-workers, as well. It is about the little things, the "uh-huh" moments that can cheer up a patient, customer, or fellow associate. I also love learning something new every day.
How do you stay up to date with current innovations and trends?
I attend my state and national meetings and network with other CDMs. I also like to go to various food shows to see new products and learn new menu ideas. I can usually bring back at least one takeaway for our Dietary Department. Pulaski Memorial is on top of innovation and always looking to improve our customer experiences.
How do you envision the foodservice industry changing in the next few years?
I see some people, particularly the younger generation wanting more grab and go items that can be available all hours of the day. Cell phones and debit cards have made paying for products at any time of the day more commonplace. But technology can't do everything. Computers can't prepare a hot meal. We need to reach out to local high school students looking for career ideas to show the importance of healthcare foodservice and the significance of the role CDMs and dietary staff play in patient satisfaction; and how rewarding that can be. It is a great profession, and we need to educate the next generation of that.
What is your advice to those just getting started in the foodservice industry?
Persevere and never quit on your passion. Everyone loves food, and a Certified Dietary Manager plays a vital role in food service, whether in long term care, assisted living facilities, hospitals, schools, or justice systems. I would tell people to be ready to make mistakes but learn from those mistakes. Preparing food is an art and a science, don't be afraid to experiment; have fun. If someone were thinking about obtaining a CDM, I would encourage them to take the online classes. They are worthwhile and informative. They will learn that it is a rewarding career. When I retire, I want to know that I made a difference, not only for our patients and customers but for the next generation of Dietary Managers as well.