23 May 2009
Challenges in Deployed Food Service
It's not a glamorous job. We don't 'save' lives, we don't discover new diseases or come up with new surgical techniques. We don't spend hours with patients - in fact, they barely see our faces.
But if we weren't here, everyone would notice. Because feeding patients (and staff) is a necessary job. And we do it every day.
I screen all new patients for nutritional needs; sometimes I need to provide nutrition support - decide on the IV nutrition (aka "TPN") or a tube feeding. I do some diet education as well. All of us try to obtain food preferences from our patients. I also determine how many special Halal meals we need to order (Muslims only eat meat that is considered Halal).
We also order the meals for the CASF (so I have to review the census and projections twice a day to get adequate food but not way too much). We've been watching food preference trends in our staff as well, making adjustments to the hospital dining facility menu (although we are constrained by the pre-set 28 day menu that has some very interesting choices - i.e. not always menus or patterns of food options I would have created).
I've spent some time this deployment trying to improve the dining facility to give it some better flow, some items requested by our customers (i.e. Iced tea has been a frequent request all year), and do what we can within the limited space. We also have some policy restraints. For example, we cannot just get extra food for parties. And we only serve dessert on Sundays (no room in the facility to have a dessert table any other days).
And it's nice to surprise people.
We got our iced tea earlier this month (both sweet & unsweet). We got a nice table for the middle of the serving area for fruit & bars display (getting rid of a wobbly looking fruit stand). We got a bread dispenser (more sanitary than people reaching into open plastic bags). And today we started a new policy - Saturday ice cream at lunch (and midnight).
We sometimes get challenged. Like today. There was a power outage that affected the facility that makes our food. They were going to be late in delivery and with limited food choices. When it was time to feed our patients we had the Halal meals for our Iraqi's but we ended up making sandwiches and stuff for our other patients. For the staff it meant we were an hour late for dinner (so we stayed open later). And it meant I didn't go to the movie (Angels & Demons - theater had no power either). On the positive side I was available to help with the helicopters bringing in some patients. Eventually we opened and people were happy.