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Aundrea Mills has been taking care of people her entire life. From her earliest days in healthcare as a switchboard operator and lab technician to her most recent role as a chief nursing officer, she has demonstrated a passion for patients and wellness.

“I’ve worked in a hospital since the moment I left high school,” said Aundrea Mills. “I’ve worked so many roles that I truly have a holistic view of the entire healthcare ecosystem, lending itself to different perspectives and a better understanding of departmental roles.”

In her newest role, Mills has left the four walls of a hospital to take the newly created role of Chief Nursing Officer for Morrison Healthcare. It is a pioneering role and the first of its kind in the food and nutrition services sector.

Mills works across all of MHC’s locations, building relationships between nursing and food and nutrition services to foster a collaborative care team and achieve better outcomes. She started the role in September 2021.

“My initial takeaway is—why hasn’t anyone done this sooner?” said Mills. “There is so much opportunity in a role like this. The magnitude of impact we can have on the healthcare system and on patient outcomes is enormous. When we open the door to work together, we will innovate processes and change the entire healthcare industry.”

Collaboration and Communication are Key

For Mills, it comes down to two things: collaboration and communication.

“There is language barrier between departments,” said Mills. “Nurses speak a certain way about cases and the FANS teams speaks another. Bridging that communication barrier is a foundational step to improving relations between departments and delivering better outcomes.”

As part of the communication challenges, nursing and FANS make assumptions about each other that limit collaboration and hinder the relationship.

“There is an assumption that nurses know nutritional processes,” said Mills. “I know from experience, they don’t in most cases. We need to have clearer communication channels and a consistent vocabulary to ensure everyone is on the same page.”

With better communication, nursing and FANS can better collaborate on patient care. Something that will be the cornerstone of Mills’ role.

“We are bringing the collaboration between nutritional services and nursing to a higher level,” said Mills. “From a nursing perspective, we need to emphasize the medicinal aspects of food and the impact it can have. In this role, there is a large-scale opportunity to impact perceptions and increase the prominence of wellness initiatives.”

It’s an opportunity that Mills is uniquely positioned to grasp. Having previously served as CNO for Morristown-Hamblen Health System, part of Covenant Health, in Morristown, Tenn., as well as LifePoint Health and CHS she knows the challenges nursing teams face. She can build sustainable processes and programs that make a lasting mark on the patient experience.

“As a CNO, patient experience has always been a top priority,” said Mills. “We look at quality, outcomes, and experience. My new role with Morrison Healthcare brings that focus to the nutrition side of healthcare. I am working a great deal with the Morrison Healthcare Patient Solutions and Patient Experience teams to come up with new ways to improve the patient experience.”

Her passion doesn’t stop with the patient. She is an ardent advocate for nurses and their wellness journey.

“Morrison Healthcare’s partnership with the American Nurses Association and the Healthy Nurse, Healthy Nation initiative is vitally important,” said Mills. “Too often the health of our caregivers is overlooked. We need to care for those who care for us. By helping nurses help themselves, we can reduce burnout and improve the lives of nurses.”

Mills has always been a leader in healthcare. Now she is charting a new course for food and nutrition services. A course that embraces collaboration and fosters communication among caregivers. At the heart of it all—patient care and improving the experience we provide.

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