When checking out at the hospital cafeteria register, chances are you’ll be greeted by Sandi Smith. Sandi celebrates 10 years as a nutrition technician at DCMC this year. She came to the hospital from her job as a baker at The Inn at Cedar Crossing, hired the same day as Doug Meyer, also an accomplished chef. “That started the trend of hiring top people from local restaurants,” she says.
But you won’t find any temperamental chefs here. The Nutrition Services Team works together to provide patient care in the form of personalized, nutritious meals. “We’re proud to offer room service to all our inpatients,” says Sandi. “We have nearly a dozen specialty menus, designed for different health needs, that patients choose from.” And because patients decide what and when they want to eat, the department has dramatically reduced food waste and costs. “That means more money can go towards patient care, medical equipment…the things that really matter,” says Smith. The team takes patient feedback seriously, and it shows; nutritional services is consistently rated at a 99% satisfaction rate.
In addition to providing patient nutrition, the cafeteria serves three meals a day to staff and guests. “We’re the best kept secret in town,” says Sandi. “Our food is delicious and reasonably priced. We’ve got regulars who eat here daily, just like any other restaurant.” All the cafeteria’s food is made from scratch, including soups which start with homemade stock, fresh produce and meats. DCMC’s CEO Jerry Worrick is a regular who never misses the Thursday breakfast special, grits with cheese. Another local couple comes in for the salmon, and many employees never miss the Thursday fresh salad bar. “We always have a healthy choice item on the menu,” says Sandi, “and we work closely with our in-house dietitians to design our menus.”
Sandi’s role as the “front of house” manager, to use restaurant lingo, keeps her in touch with the community. “I grew up here, so the people I see in the cafeteria every day were my classmates, neighbors and friends. There are so many reasons someone might be here – an illness, a sick child, or a family member in the Skilled Nursing Facility. We don’t know why they’re here, but being the friendly face who asks after them and their family provides comfort.” For Sandi, just connecting with the community through her daily work is a privilege. “I find myself praying a lot behind the counter,” she adds.
Sandi plans to work at DCMC until she retires. “The culture here is so strong,” she says. “All of us – from our staff to medical staff to senior leaders – take pride in what we are trying to accomplish: excellent patient care.”
Although Sandi worked in food preparation for many years, she has embraced her new hospitality role, into which she transitioned a year ago. “I’m kind of like the bartender,” she says. “People tell me how their day is going, what’s on their mind. People coming to the cafeteria need a break, whether it’s from their work day or from being at an appointment or visiting a family member. It’s nice to be able to be here for them – hopefully we make everybody’s day just a little better.”