When you’re in the hospital, you have more important things to think about than how your meals are planned, prepared and delivered to your room. It’s one of the things that seamlessly happens behind the scenes to contribute to what you hope will be a comfortable stay.
However, you’d be impressed to learn how many staff members and steps it takes so that you get that meat loaf, baked potato with sour cream, green beans and carrot cake within 45 minutes of picking up the phone to place your order.
At Dignity Health, Yavapai Regional Medical Center (YRMC), meals are served room-service style. This means that you can call in any order, breakfast, lunch or dinner, between the hours of 7 AM and 7 PM. Your choices are only limited by the diet your doctor has ordered for you.
The menu is extensive – similar to what you’d see in a restaurant. It begins with a build your own breakfast option, including a choice of eggs, omelets, breakfast burritos, breads and potatoes, meats, cottage cheese, cereals, fruit, dairy and vegetarian options.
A soup of the day is always available, along with daily chicken noodle soup. There’s a variety of salads and build your own sandwich choices, grill items and a pizza bar. Hot meals are also available all day. Popular dishes include roast turkey or roast beef with gravy, salmon, meat loaf with baked potato and turkey tacos.
Patients are free to mix and match menu items at any given meal, as long as they’re within their doctor’s orders.
Jeanne Briggs, Registered Dietician and Director of YRMC Nutrition Services, says that the patient menu at YRMC is continually being reviewed and updated.
“First and foremost, our patient menu is based on nutritional requirements,” says Briggs. “We follow the USDA/HHS Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Fruits and vegetables are central to our menu. We pride ourselves in having those featured. We cook healthier meals than many people do at home. For example, our meals are lower in sodium than many people are used to.”
“We have a team approach to what goes on the menu,” Briggs continues. “We have input from professional dieticians, but we also listen to the clinical staff, since they’re on the floors with the patients and hear feedback more frequently than we do. We are continually revamping the menu to reflect our patients’ needs and wants. It’s all about being a good listener.”
Plant forward, vegetarian, vegan and gluten free choices are also available.
Briggs gives special recognition to Cafeteria Team Lead, Daniel Seale who regularly does recipe analysis for food content and potential allergy-causing ingredients for the cafe and patient menus. He is also responsible for the research and development of new recipes. In addition, Production Manager Shelley Stophlet (YRMC West) and Kim Hamilton (YRMC East) make sure that all departmental operations run smoothly.
Briggs describes the process from order to delivery. When a patient calls their order in, the computer system will immediately show the operator what diet the patient is on and whether there are any requested items the patient is not allowed to eat. If necessary, the operator will contact the patient and makes suggestions for alternative choices. Once the order is finalized, three tickets are created.
The first ticket goes to cold prep, which includes items that don’t need to be cooked, such as milk, juice or other beverage, a napkin, silverware and similar items. The second ticket goes to the cook who prepares the hot portion of the meal – typically the main dish. The third ticket goes to the checker who makes sure the order is accurate and looks appealing. “No burnt toast!” jokes Briggs. Finally, delivery staff brings the tray to the patient’s room. At the patient’s bedside, they open the lid and make sure the patient is satisfied.
According to Briggs, the greatest challenge is scheduling. For example, “a patient may have a typical time they expect to eat lunch,” says Briggs. “Our continual goal is to prepare, cook and deliver a fresh meal within a 45-minute time frame. So, during high-volume times like lunchtime, we’ll sometimes call patients we haven’t heard from to schedule their delivery ahead of time. This allows the patient to receive their meal when they would like it and it helps us reach that 45-minute goal.”
Briggs is gratified when patients and staff ask for YRMC recipes. “It happens quite often, and we always provide them,” she says. “Our carrot cake recipe is one of the most requested. It’s a homemade recipe we’ve used the entire 37 years I’ve been at YRMC. The recipe was brought in by one of the cooks before I started working here. People rave about it.”
After 37 years, Briggs’ greatest reward is the fact that she gets to take care of people. She simply states, “It’s what I was born to do.”
“Our staff loves working here,” she continues. “And we’re proud of the quality meals we make. We give our very best every day to support your wellness.”