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Beyond the Data: Empowering Food & Nutrition Services to Support Nursing

By: Aundrea Mills, Chief Nursing Officer, Morrison Healthcare

I wish I could say that I’m surprised.

The American Nurses Foundation recently released their 2022 Workplace Survey and the results paint a bleak picture of the nursing profession. The headline says it all: “Nursers Not Feeling Heard, Ongoing Staffing and Workplace Issues Contributing to Unhealthy Work Environment.”

As a lifelong nurse, I have seen so much.  It is disturbing what is happening to the hardworking nurses in our profession. Just look at some of ANF’s results.

Even with those challenges, nurses are, for the most part, sticking with the profession. When asked if they intended to leave direct patient care in the next six months, most nurses said they plan to stay.

While ideally, all nurses would plan to stay in their roles, I choose to see a positive here. For many, nursing is more than just a job. It is a calling. We are committed to caring for patients and impacting our communities. That’s why we must do everything we can to safeguard the health and wellbeing of nurses.

I have been in the Chief Nursing Officer role at Morrison Healthcare for just over a year. This role is the first of its kind and has given me the ability to work with nursing teams to improve their experience and their ability to partner with our teams to deliver care.

Food and Nutrition Services plays an important role in the care continuum. We have the ability to positively impact the nursing experience, freeing them up to focus on pressing patient care issues. To best do this, we are focused on three areas: Communication, Collaboration and Wellness.

Communication

There is often a language barrier between departments. Nurses speak a certain way about cases and the Food & Nutrition Services teams speak another. We need to bridge this gap and improve communication between departments.

By directly engaging with nursing leadership on the front end of a new engagement, we are able to create a viable communication channel. Education is critical to this communication. We need to make sure the Food & Nutrition Services team understands the nursing org chart, so they can leverage the entire team to improve communication. Nursing Supervisors often serve as that initial point of contact. Additionally, we need to make certain that we make communication part of the nursing onboarding process, so they have exposure to the Food & Nutrition team from their first moments on the job.

We are leveraging technology to improve communication. In one instance, we developed a QR code that unlocks critical information for nurses. They were able to scan the code to get the most up-to-date information at a moment’s notice. It has sped up processes and allowed nurses to react quickly to patient needs in regards to our services.

Collaboration

Communication is the first step to better collaboration. With clear channels and an understanding of capabilities, both teams can work together to solve problems and create efficient processes.

Food & Nutrition Services leaders have begun rounding with nursing leaders to identify potential breakdowns in workflows. It is a great opportunity for both sides to work together on process improvement. It also starts a dialogue on workflow that can lead to expanded responsibilities for Food & Nutrition Services that may alleviate some burdens on nursing.

Examples of this include: dialysis patient workflows; after hour meals processes; ED admit hold meal/snack processes; and diabetic tray pass expectation and standardization to prevent failed expectations. With Food & Nutrition Services taking an active role in these sectors, nursing is freed up to address other areas of concern.

Wellness

By freeing nurses up to deliver direct patient care, we are taking the first step in safeguarding their wellness. But that isn’t enough. We need to deliberately create programs that caters to their unique needs and workflows.

Too often, nurses don’t have time to leave the floor for a meal. Yet, they would like to have healthy dining options during their shifts. We have an opportunity to bring healthy options to them, giving them a means to stay healthy even when the work schedule is challenging.

At Morrison Healthcare, we have partnered with the American Nursing Association for their Health Nurse, Health Nation initiative. Through this partnership, we are getting real time data that allows us to better optimize our processes to positively impact the nursing experience from a culinary standpoint.

We are more than two years removed from the initial COVID-19 outbreak and nurses are still strained. Needless to say, it is a challenging time to be a nurse. But there is a glimmer of hope. We recognize the problem and healthcare leaders around the country are working together to solve the problem and safeguard our nurses.

Food & Nutrition Services plays an important role in the wellbeing and effectiveness of nursing. By working together, we will innovate and excel. The next year will be exciting as we push forward and keep nursing at the center of the conversation.

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