Caregiving Staff Caught In The Middle? How to overcome, “I don’t want to be a waitress” attitude in your dining rooms

Caregiver in the Middle (RESIDENT CENTERED) 090815Just like in an orchestra, where musician’s practice from individual sheet music to deliver a unified audience pleasing performance, in a successful dining room, every staff member needs to perform their individual part to please diners. In your community, do you have some employees who aren’t willing to lend a helping hand?

It seems like a standard issue in every dining room in every community I work with. Executive Directors tell me, “Resident caregivers (CNAs, LNAs, Nurses) prefer not to be serving food or even coffee in the dining room. They believe serving should be relegated to the food service department and consequently bring a negative attitude into the dining room, which really effects the residents.” From the caregivers, I hear, “Of course we don’t want to be waitresses. We didn’t go to school to be waitresses and serving is just part of our daily job.” I totally hear both sides. However, long-standing schism between departments have no place in the dining room.

The bottom line is, the actions of serving a meal to residents in their home should never be about waitering vs nursing or dogged with negative perceptions that pouring coffee, and serving a meal is somehow belittling work.

On the contrary, the dining experience is proving to be the most important area to enhance residents’ health and well-being.

I see communities in the throes of a cultural shift in service quality and organizational change as they upgrade and beautify dining operations, overlooking the most important aspects of this beautification process: staff enlightenment.

I use the word enlightenment, because that is precisely what is needed for caregivers and ancillary staff to be successful, those whose roles and responsibilities are changing as fast as new standards and measures.

Organizational change involving the dining room, requires staff learn to read new sheet music, embrace a different skill set, attitude, and commitment.

Training that changes staff behavior and attitudes is hard to find, and it is what we do in Kind Dining.®

As a leader, once you take the focus off tasks and turf, and orchestrate staff unity around those events (mealtimes) residents spend 60% of their day doing, pretty soon, everyone wants to pitch in and amazing results happen.

Where do you start in managing change, improving employee performance, to get these amazing results?

  1. Bring out the best in your staff, by kindling your own passion and appreciation about receiving excellent service while dining. People always look at their leader’s commitment and passion to get behind. If you provide lukewarm leadership in the dining room you will get lukewarm results.
  2. Remind caregivers often that serving coffee isn’t belittling work if it makes the residents happy, as making residents happy has a profound effect on their well-being and overall health. And don’t forget who ultimately pays staff salaries: The Residents!
  3. Hire future caregivers for the specific attitudes you want to instill in the dining enviornment and train all who carry the plate to value the power of their position, to make the meal an experience for each diner rather than to just meet nutritional needs.
  4. Remember that things like furniture, chandeliers, and new paint in the dining room, no matter how up-to-date, and beautiful, don’t satisfy your resident’s human heart. What does? Kindness, joy, generosity, patience, love and staff working in their home being courteous.

I talk about this in my Kind Dining® presentations, day-long workshops and training. Call me today. It’s never too late to start building community spirit around mealtimes. My Kind Dining® program is built specifically to address issues just like this in your community and many more.

Performance is what pays the bills. Not loyalty or morale- Price Pritchett

If you want more information on how to boost performance in the dining room, check out my book Hospitality for Boomers. It has easy tips you can implement right away.

About Cindy Heilman

Cindy is the founder and owner of Kind Dining®, which she began in 2006. She’s traveled across the country and Canada working with and training senior living communities that want to create an exceptional dining experience for their residents and staff. In addition, she certifies select professionals in her Kind Dining® philosophy and provides tools, now in an eLearning format, that make learning stick and help people put insights into action. As a result of her work, clients often share their staff has a new sense of purpose, get along better and keep their focus and energy on what matters most. In fact, she wrote a book, Hospitality for Boomers on how to attract residents and keep good team members. In her free time, she enjoys walking Oregon trails and cheering on her favorite soccer teams, the Portland Thorns and Timbers.

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