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Giving It Her All: After 47 Years at Morrison Healthcare, Pam Garnett Retires

Giving It Her All: After 47 Years at Morrison Healthcare, Pam Garnett Retires 

Pam Garnett’s favorite Morrison Healthcare memory reflects her commitment to nearly a half-century working at the company. 

“I was recognized at the 2008 annual meeting as the Customer Support Service Team Member,” Pam recalls. “Because my responsibilities, and my team, had changed three times in three years, the award affirmed my value to the company. I knew I was making important contributions and it was an honor to be recognized.” 

Set to retire in February 2023 after working for 47 years in a variety of roles — including Morrison’s first-ever and only National Director of Standardization — Pam leaves a legacy that will be hard to match. 

Serving in this role since 2016, Pam is recognized as a national expert on food service safety and healthcare regulations. Over the past six years, she has worked diligently with Morrison regional directors and others to prepare for hundreds of inspections by government regulators, often traveling to hospitals to view their operations. 

“Pam is a compass, a beacon of stability,” says Peggy O’Neill, Morrison’s Vice President of Nutrition and Wellness. “She is always there to help, especially for sound regulatory advice. Known for her keen eye and dry sense of humor, Pam is so well respected throughout our company that people just say, ‘I’ll reach out to Pam’ and everyone knows it’s Pam Garnett. She is a true Morrison icon.” 

Adds Tonya Zellner, National Director for Operational Support: “I will miss Pam’s passion, dedication, and qualifications for the job. Her attention to detail and her perseverance to complete any task with the utmost professionalism will be hard to replace.”  

Making Food Safety Job One 

Making certain every Morrison account is following all food safety laws has been one of Pam’s primary responsibilities. By developing a template for all policies and procedures, Pam has made it possible for each Morrison food service operation to meet or exceed all government food safety regulations – and avoid penalties for any violations. 

To be reimbursed for the caring of patients on Medicare or Medicaid, all food service providers must follow regulations published by The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). In addition, The Joint Commission adds more rules as part of their compliance surveys. Failure to meet any of these could result in fines or withholding payment to the facilities that Morrison services. 

Pam also serves as co-chair of Morrison’s Regulatory Compliance Committee, working with people from multiple sectors and the Compass Group Quality Assurance team. The Committee also provides an opportunity to collaborate and obtain the best ideas to solve any problems. 

“I think it is important to network about our experiences and share what works and what doesn’t work,” Pam says. “I never hesitate to reach out to someone with a question. And I receive emails daily from accounts across the country about regulations and resources.”  

A Humble Beginning  

After graduating from Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1975, Pam set out to begin a career as a registered dietitian. She applied to two dietetic internship programs but wasn’t accepted by either one. Ever vigilant, she found that Harrisburg Hospital in Harrisburg, Pa., her hometown, needed someone to fill in for six months when a full-time dietitian went on maternity leave.     

The hospital’s Food Service Director and Pam cut a deal – if she covered the maternity leave, she would be accepted into the company’s dietetic traineeship program. It was her initiation in the industry, giving her the opportunity to provide nutritional counseling to patients and help set patient menus.  

After her traineeship based at Nesbitt Memorial Hospital in Kingston, Pa., she became a clinical dietitian in Port Jervis, New York at a hospital now known as Bon Secours Community Hospital – a hospital still served today by Morrison. 

She quickly moved through the organization, becoming a corporate support dietitian after nine months and a regional dietitian two years later. Her duties were wide-ranging – she reported to the operations team, visited various hospitals, provided orientation and evaluations for dietitians, and helped accounts prepare for inspection.    

Working in a Variety of Roles  

During her decades of service at Morrison, Pam worked for 26 years as a Regional Director of Nutrition. This position enabled Pam to dedicate her skills to helping dietitians – people she holds in the highest regard. 

“Dietitians are a critical part of the healthcare food service team, and by supporting their work and the contributions they make every day, we strengthen the services that Morrison provides. As a Regional Director of Nutrition, I collaborated with several Morrison nutrition leaders to help dietitians as much as we could. We learned from each other and applied our skills and knowledge to the challenges and opportunities others on the nutrition team faced with their accounts.” 

She remained in that role until 2005. Over the next decade, she took on various roles, including Director of Nutrition Resources, Customer Experience Manager and Operations Support Manager before becoming National Director, of Standardization. 

During that time, she was part of a team that developed a tool to evaluate account compliance for the company’s Patient First standards, which provided more consistency to patient service programs. It was also the first step in the development of the self-assessment tools we currently have in place, and which are now available to accounts on an iPad.

“A key to Pam’s success is that she’s always said “yes” to any corporate project assignment,” says Tonya Zellner. “For example, when our leadership published the Morrison Healthcare Power of Food Playbook, Pam embraced that vision and was instrumental in coordinating all of our corporate teams to create the Playbook we have today.  By keeping an open mind, she was able to achieve career growth that many others should emulate.”  

Wisdom for Others 

Pam’s knowledge of the company and the food service industry have enabled her to make additional contributions to the company.  

She recently formed and led a team across several Compass One sectors that updated competencies for 11 different hourly positions. And during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, she jumped into action, working with other departments to determine how to keep associates safe while serving patients. She helped communicate all vaccination requirements through webinars with food service directors nationwide to ensure they understood the requirements to meet federal regulations.  

Her work on this project is one reason Pam was recognized as the winner of the Fiscal Year 2020 National Service Excellence Award – an award given virtually without her prior knowledge and presented by Tim Pierce, Bobby Kutteh, Gina Damon and Peggy O’Neill. “I was responsible for getting her on the virtual call without her knowing the reason and it was fun watching her surprised reaction,” Zellner recalls.  

Pam says one key to providing value to any organization is to tap the knowledge of the skills and experience of others, especially at Morrison and others in Compass One Healthcare. 

“I’ve never been one who is afraid to ask a question,” she says. “If I know someone at another Compass Group sector like Crothall or Morrison Living can help solve a problem, I’ll reach out to my contacts there.” 

As she looks forward to retirement, Pam’s bucket list includes traveling to New Mexico and Alaska – the only two states in the U.S. she has not visited.  While looking forward to a retirement well earned, she will always have fond memories of Morrison.  

“Of course, I will miss all my friends and colleagues whom I have worked with, and the times when our efforts helped us serve clients and patients better. Helping people make their job easier provided me with great satisfaction. I’m proud of our company and the dedication of so many people to help others every day.” 

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