A Side of Smiles

Food Services Ambassadors bring a personal touch to patient meals.0624RussellWalker310x153

His knowledge of the Nutrition and Food Services department, big smile and easygoing manner, made Russell Walker the perfect choice to pilot a new concierge food services program at SAMC.

"We moved him from the tray line, so he was already assembling food for our patients," said Lesia Hollis, director of Nutrition and Food Services. "As it turns out, all the patients fell in love with Russell."

Walker was later joined by fellow team member Vonda Culver as food service Ambassadors on the orthopedic and neurospine floors. Wearing bright blue chef's shirts, Ambassadors enter each room with the goal of pleasing the patient. The widely successful program is now hospital wide, with 14 Ambassadors serving SAMC patients. Each Ambassador works a 12-hour shift and is responsible for all the meals on an assigned floor.

Ambassadors introduce themselves while delivering the morning breakfast tray and make sure the patient has everything they need. In some cases, that means a quick run down to the kitchen to retrieve hot sauce for eggs or a favorite barbecue sauce. The Ambassadors do everything they can to get the patient the food they want from set menus or from available options.

When Ambassadors return to the rooms to clear the trays, they use a bedside menu entry palm pad to order lunch. That procedure is repeated after lunch to order dinner and breakfast for the next day.

Ambassadors also stock all patient care areas throughout the hospital with beverages and snacks. Even those between-meal snacks have been expanded from juice, pudding and crackers to include boxed sandwiches and soup.

"The patients love it and the nurses love it," Walker said. "This program brings a personal touch to the bedside."

Ambassadors also order food trays for guests so they can remain at the bedside.

The personal touch bedside ordering has also reduced errors and complaints. Patients who may be hospitalized for several days get to know their Ambassadors.

Every action taken by Ambassadors – from knocking on the door and introducing themselves, to anticipating needs by providing condiments and giving a pleasant goodbye – is based on the Medical Center's Service Essentials, a set of behaviors which guides the actions of every employee.

"This is all about the patient," Hollis said. "They are here because something is wrong. They are sick and don't want to be here. The least we can do is exceed their expectations and enhance their experience at SAMC."