Servers: Nursing vs Foodservice

Are servers working in the nursing department as caring as the food service department staff about serving a meal? This question often tops the list of challenges in senior living communities., whether I’m working with a skilled nursing home, assisted living community, residential care community, or Continuing Care Community (CCRC).

A dining director in a CCRC remarked last week that servers from their nursing department (nurse aides) care about the residents, however many don’t care to learn new skills about meal service. She exacerbated, ” they don’t see a need to spend the time learning because they believe they already know everything about the residents”. In my opinion, in the medical model of care nursing staff are positioned as the “knowers”, and have been taught they know what is good for the resident often over the residents’ own opinion.

It is one thing to know everything about the resident from a clinical standpoint, or even about their personal preferences, i.e., how they like to bathe, wear their clothes, comb their hair, or what they like to eat.

There simply is a different set of skills required to understand how to caringly serve a meal to another person. The expectations of being served as any individual waiting for a meal do not disappear when residents enter a senior living community, or somehow change because they are being served by their caregiver, who doesn’t feel like serving because they don’t want to be considered a waitress. Being a waitress has been given a bad wrap in certain nursing circles. As most all mothers know, and most properly skilled waitresses, there is something quite nurturing in making a connection with another person through offering a meal.

Expectations of servers being consistently attentive, kind, using proper manners, serving/removing plates timely, and owning up to the goodness of the food itself, are often greater in a care setting.

It is especially critical to offer consistency in serving at all levels of care and all servers should receive the same training to the same standards.

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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