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Serving Patients and Caregivers Amid the Pandemic

2020 was a challenging year for healthcare professionals and institutions. It was a year filled with stress and tension, but amid these struggles we have witnessed great displays of compassion and caring. Every day healthcare workers have put aside their difficulties and focused on serving patients, demonstrating their resilience in the shadow of a pandemic.

Food plays an important role in a hospital’s ability to improve outcomes and instill a healthy lifestyle. During the pandemic, many hospitals across the country have embraced the power of food in the healing process. We have seen healthcare workers look beyond themselves and develop new processes that better meet the patients’ needs. We have seen hospitals innovate to find new ways to take care of their staff. By championing wellness, hospitals have shown their strength and commitment to their communities.

Morrison Healthcare has a front-row seat to the resilience of hospitals. Its clients have taken advantage of new programs and offerings that advance the industry and provide new avenues to deliver healthy food to patients, guests, and staff. In many cases, Morrison has worked with clients to establish custom solutions that fit the unique nature of each hospital. It’s this level of partnership that leads to innovation. We wanted to share two examples of hospitals that have turned the challenges of 2020 into success.

Changing the perception of hospital food at Kern Medical

Offering the only advanced trauma care between Fresno and Los Angeles, Kern Medical is a 222-bed acute care teaching center. As a topflight regional health care system, Kern Medical is a leading voice for health, healing, and wellness in the Central Valley.

When COVID struck, Kern Medical responded quickly with new offerings that increased access to food (while also increasing sales). They opened a mini market to provide healthy food options and essential products to caregivers, who were often working long hours. They also looked at providing peace of mind and a feeling of belonging by hosting events featuring comfort food for staff on Fridays.

At the heart of their success lies a sense of community.

“I am so thankful to be a part of this team,” said Michelle Valencia, retail manager, Kern Medical. “The hospital and all the staff take pride in being part of the community and making a difference. We are always pushing the envelope and focusing on the guest experience.”

To embrace the sense of community on the Kern Medical campus, the team looked for ways to meet people where they are. As a result, they created a food truck using an old trailer. With a little bit of a refresh, the tailer became a vehicle with a quick-serve menu. With a large campus, this meant the food and nutrition services team could reach outlying areas. It didn’t take long before there were lines ready for service.

Adding to this sense of community, the team put together weekly events in the hospital’s open-air spaces. Two days a week there was an outdoor barbeque. Another day, there was even a baking competition that brought out numerous competitors.

Community extends beyond the hospital walls. Kern Medical is looking at wellness as a whole for the community. The team identified a gap in wellness and found a way to fill it. Since COVID began, the hospital has served more than 4,000 meals to the homeless.

Through these new initiatives, the hospital has seen improvement in staff engagement and revenue. Within a month, the hospital had seen a 13 percent increase in retail sales.

“We’ve never been busier,” said Valencia. “Hospital administrators hadn’t seen the culinary side of us before. They were floored by what we can do. It’s been a lot of fun.”

“Morrison has worked closely with Kern Medical for many years providing nutritional management services at our hospital.  Their efforts have strengthened and enhanced the quality and service of our dietary staff.  We appreciate their onsite management and support from regional leadership,” said Scott Thygerson, Kern Medical President, Hospital and Clinic Operations.

Serving patients and caregivers at the University of Virginia Health System

Ranked as one of the nation’s top hospitals, the University of Virginia Health System (UVA Health) offers comprehensive care through a hospital, Level I trauma center, nationally recognized cancer and heart centers, and primary and specialty clinics throughout Central Virginia. When COVID first appeared, the team made immediate changes to focus on safety.

With a goal of providing less crowded dining, contactless service, and a faster experience, UVA Health utilized a number of Morrison’s programs to better serve patients and staff. This includes pre-made salads, quick to-go meals, and implementing a kiosk system where guests can pay for their meals.

“We made safety priority number one,” said Leanna Hill, patient services manager, UVA Health. “Even with new safety protocols, we are able to deliver the quality food our patients and guests expect. It’s been fun to get creative and find new ways to reach people with food.”

Part of the strategy involved meeting staff where they work. Through the Nourish application, staff can get nutritious food without having to leave their unit. Sometimes the chefs get involved, delivering meals to staff and patients. This provided convenience while maintaining the quality and taste that guests and patients expect.

For patients, UVA Health teams implemented more safety measures, including disposable plates and silverware, non-contact ordering, and less in-person interaction. Patients have understood and responded to the new safety initiatives, which have been successful while providing the same nutritious food served at the proper temperature. By adapting, teams have maintained their focus on delivering an excellent patient experience.

Throughout the food and nutrition service team’s work, the hospital demonstrated a commitment to patients and the staff. Not only has this provided a valuable service, but it has also strengthened the relationship with nursing. A closer bond with the clinical teams can have a lasting impact on the hospital and the care that is provided.

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