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 Heilman MS, DTR: Cindy Heilman has over 25 years of experience in enhancing hospitality, and food service standards. She is the CEO of her own company, Higher Standards LLC, and creator of Kind Dining® Training. Her unique background in restaurant ownership, in hospitality and healthcare food service, in working as a Dietetic Technician Registered and Healthcare Specialist at SYSCO Foodservices, led her to the development of her exclusive program that improves relationships and lives of aging residents through the dining experience.

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