Today I had the opportunity to shadow a Nutrition Services Hostess at Monongalia General Hospital. A Nutrition Services Hostess is responsible for “the preparation, service, and/or clean up of meals including, but not limited to, simple food preparation, tray assembly, cafeteria service and dishwashing”.
One of the most important roles as a hostess is assisting patients in selecting menu items based on personal preferences while still staying in accordance with therapeutic dietary guidelines. I realized that hostesses not only need to have a vast knowledge about the hospital’s menu items, but they also need to be knowledgeable about what foods are allowed to be substituted according to a patient’s special dietary restrictions (ie. low sodium, low fat, carbohydrate counting, fluid restriction, pureed, clear liquids, etc). Each hostess is equipped with a small handheld electronic computer where they can edit a patient’s menu instantly and quickly.
A hostess is also responsible for the final assembly of patient trays. A meal ticket is printed out for each patient tray with specific food items, condiments, drinks, desserts, silverware, garnishes, and the exact quantity of each. Once 10-15 trays are fully assembled, the hostess is responsible for placing the trays onto a cart and wheeling it up to the appropriate floor. Before a tray can be delivered, the hostess has to ask the patient for two patient identifiers: “What is your name?” and “What is your birthday?” This is to ensure tray delivery to the correct patient. A hostess also has to be sure to either wash hands or use hand sanitizer in between rooms to prevent spreading germs or bacteria.
Once the patient correctly identifies themself, the hostess can then serve the patient courteously and provide any assistance the patient may need (adjusting the table placement/height, opening food packages or containers, etc). The hostess then asks if there is anything else the patient may need. If there is a problem, it is essential that the hostess follows up in regards to any meal service requests.
Overall, I learned a lot about the food service system of a hospital and how it operates so efficiently.