More was expected of CHI St. Joseph’s Health when it moved into its new state-of-the-art, $100 million facility in December 2014.
The food served to patients and visitors was no exception to that, registered dietician Darcy Stafford said.
Not only did the hospital put its new cafeteria front and center in the building off Fairway Street in west Dickinson, Stafford said its staff created an entirely new patient menu — which allows them to order what they want instead of eating whatever the cafeteria is serving that day — and changed its system to better track patients’ nutritional habits and make better recommendations for patients.
“Much like when you when go into a restaurant, you’d open our menu and order what you’d like to eat — which is probably one of the best things I can say happened in our department,” Stafford said.
Some patients may have limitations on sodium, dairy or carbohydrates, Stafford said, and the hospital’s staff can better track that and tailor meals to their needs now.
“We have an operator in our diet office who really monitors that,” Stafford said. “Since everything is computerized, as they order, it will add up.”
Better for patients
Lona Gordon, the hospital’s director of dietary services, said everyone received the same meal at the old St. Joseph’s cafeteria.
Patients appreciate the ability to choose now, she said, even if everything on the menu is a healthy choice.
“Patients can accept it so much better when it’s explained to them,” Gordon said. “(The dieticians) are great at furthering and helping the patient understand why they can’t or what it does to them. These guys are like scientists.”
She said the cafeteria recently received the highest rating of all Catholic Health Initiatives hospitals in a recent survey. The health system has more than 100 hospitals and in 19 states.
“That was for the patients and total meal experience, from food servers to food options, to the timeliness of getting their meal,” Gordon said.
Stafford said an operator in the kitchen either calls a patient’s room — when the patient is able to answer for themselves — or goes and visits them before each meal to ask what they’d like to order off of the hospital menu. The operator has the ability to tell the patient which items are restricted and steer them to choices that will be healthier.
“It’s a very nice personal touch, because the operator gets to talk to the patient,” Stafford said.
Being able to monitor what patients put into their bodies is good from a dietary standpoint, Stafford said, and patients enjoy being able to have a choice.
“When they get the choice, it’s so much better,” Stafford said. “It maybe makes it not feel so institutional. That’s a real benefit for us. As we go along, we’ll get to make more changes to the menu, too, and we’re really seeing what people like and what they don’t like. That’ll be upcoming here in the near future.”
Bigger, better and brighter
Cook Shaun Rattin likes to chat with people.
His job at Lefty’s grill and cafeteria inside CHI St. Joseph’s Health give him the chance to do that much more than the old hospital’s dining area ever did.
“It’s better, it’s brighter, it’s bigger,” sadi Rattin. “People can come in and see us.”
Lefty’s — affectionately named in honor of state Rep. Mike Lefor, the hospital’s former chairman of the board — serves a healthy menu daily for St. Joseph’s staff, clinic patients, hospital visitors and the occasional customer who stops by just because they like what it offers.
Stacy Stice, a dietary aide, said customers enjoy that Lefty’s has grill food without fried food.
“Customers love it,” she said. “They like it healthier, the healthier options that we give them.”
Lefty’s offers a daily salad bar, a yogurt bar during breakfast, ala carte snack options from its cooler, such as yogurts and cheeses, and always serves a lunch special.
“It’s not your average cafeteria food,” Rattin said. “It’s way better. It’s fresher.”
Gordon said Lefty’s has received a 92 percent customer satisfaction rating in a survey.
“We were proud of that,” she said.
Stafford said every item at Lefty’s is also labeled to include calories and ingredients, which she said helps customers make informed choices and avoid items they may be allergic or intolerant to, such as nuts, gluten or lactose.
“People are becoming more aware of their food, and wanting to know what the ingredients are in there,” she said.
Rattin said when they made the move to the new hospital, the kitchen lost its deep fryer — a decision he was totally against at the time. Now he sees how people enjoy the fresher food, and what he calls “reasonable prices.”
On top of getting rid of the fryer, Stafford said, the new menu made the staff become short-order cooks instead of assembly-line cooks.
“When we did move over, it was all new recipes for our cooks to learn,” Stafford said. “That was a huge challenge. We went from what they were used to to a totally new environment. … They all embraced it. Moving into a new facility was hands down just a big booster for us.”
After more than a year in the new hospital and its kitchen, Stafford said most things run like clockwork.
“It’s much more relaxed and they’re getting the system down,” she said. “I think they’re understanding, too, that as a hospital, you need to be one of the leaders as far as healthier choices. They’re excellent people in our cafeteria. They like people so they visit well, and they bring customers in.”