By Dana Denis, Morrison Healthcare Regional Director of Operations
A 27-year Morrison Healthcare veteran, Dana Denis was named Regional Director of Operations (RDO) for the Systems Division Western Region in August 2017. Her region includes 12 medical centers in California and Hawaii, including seven new hospitals that were added in 2019.
Among all of my responsibilities, I receive the most satisfaction from developing the careers of my team members. I enjoy teaching them what I know and learning from them. While it may seem odd, I particularly like teaching them about our financial systems and analyzing our results. One of my favorite jokes is that I love a good spreadsheet.
One of the best ways to encourage their career growth is to give them “stretch” assignments. It’s a good way to build their skills. For example, participating in the opening of a new hospital is an excellent way to help staff members grow.
I’ve asked several directors and managers to help with the opening of hospitals where Morrison has taken over foodservice. In one case, two of our directors was asked to work with two hospitals that are close together to cover leaves, giving them the challenge of working with multiple hospitals.
I also feel it is important for them to fully participate and share their skills. We have “champions” in many areas of our business: safety, finance, inclusion. There is something for everyone to show their best self and skills.
Over the years, I’ve also supported the growth of our kitchen staff, as well. Two hourly cooks who showed promise were gradually given more responsibility and eventually became executive chefs; another will now be entering a career as a patient services manager. By helping associates at all levels in our company reach for more, we are providing better service for patients and our clients.
How Stretch Assignments Helped Me
One reason I encourage stretch assignments is that I’ve reaped the benefits from working several different jobs at Morrison. After starting as a dietetic intern at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, I spent most of my career there working and learning different jobs.
I’ve worked in Clinical Management, Patient Services and even as a Production Manager before becoming a Director. These different positions enabled me to learn several jobs and take on diverse responsibilities.
And the kind of hospital I’ve worked with has also been beneficial. Working in a large Los Angeles County trauma center contributed to my growth because of the extraordinary challenges. I was energized and thrived from the dynamic, busy, ever-changing environment. It prepared me well for my transition to RDO, where I initially had 19 accounts from California to Texas.
Handling COVID-19 and Looking Ahead
After one of the most challenging years of my career, I hope we can return to a more normal environment later this year. Fortunately, when the coronavirus closed down many of our retail cafés in 2020, Morrison helped us adapt by offering “pop-up “markets for the medical staff. The medical staff and others at all of the hospitals needed and appreciated the food we provided and other items, too. At one point, toilet paper was our largest selling item.
During the past year, our teams responded like the professionals they are. As we’ve monitored a wide range of issues, from food costs to flexible staffing, they’ve worked tirelessly to meet our business needs without furloughing any associates that did not request time off.
And several have demonstrated their compassion to those in need.
One of the best examples is Chef Leo Haas at John F. Kennedy Memorial Hospital in Indio, California, near Palm Springs. After a group of elderly people was moved to a pop-up hospital, we were charged in late afternoon with providing meals for these patients for the next morning.
Instead of waiting until the next day, Chef Leo visited the pop-up hospital and discovered those patients had not eaten. He drove back to his kitchen and prepared them meals to eat so they would not go hungry.
This act of kindness is repeated every day. Witnessing the care our frontline heroes have provided others and their teamwork has made me proud to work with them and for our company.
Today, we are ramping up our retail café services. In situations where COVID-19 is still pervasive, we are doing our best to provide service and focus on opportunities to reach more people. For example, a trial utilizing mobile carts to enable the medical staff to buy beverages and snacks for those who find it difficult to leave the patient care areas.
As we move toward a more stable working environment, I encourage our associates to envision a bright future here and be open to the opportunities that present themselves. While that advice may sound a bit too optimistic, it’s not. In our business, there is never a “slow time.”
Decide on your goals and begin to take action. Extend yourself and be open to the opportunities that present themselves. Take the risk and if you are dedicated, you will achieve success.