American Society for Healthcare Foodservice Administrators
What do you find most rewarding about your job?
I like the fact that it is diverse. It is fun to look at things creatively and find new ways to provide and market those services to our customers.
I also appreciate the fact that we have the ability to provide opportunities to our employees that they may not have had otherwise. It's very gratifying to see an employee who may have joined us with few marketable skills go on to use the experience they gain with us to move on to bigger and better things.
It is also very rewarding when we have patients that we can help, and to know that we've made a difference in their lives. Often, food is the only thing they get to look forward to in their day, and we can provide them with that respite and comfort.
What are the most challenging aspects of a career in healthcare foodservice?
Healthcare food service doesn't always have the most positive image in our society. Although this is changing, there is still sometimes a hurdle to overcome in terms of the negative expectations our patients and customers sometimes have of us.
There is also another issue that we deal with regularly. We serve a wide variety of patients and customers from different backgrounds and cultures. Not everyone would choose to eat in the same restaurant, but our patients have no other choice. We try to provide the most attractive, tasteful, and nutritious meals that we can, but it is not always possible to meet all the tastes of a broad population.
Patient satisfaction is extraordinarily important. It is always a challenge to find and recruit capable employees who can learn, and be relied upon, to provide that service.
We run complex businesses. Food and Nutrition is the one department in the hospital that is both a support department and a clinical department. This means we have employees with advanced degrees, and some who have barely finished high school. We have a huge purchasing function and we need to receive and track large numbers of items. We also have retail operations that operate much like commercial restaurants, handling cash and offering foodservice that must compare favorably with establishments on the outside.
What are some typical jobs available to those interested in this field?
There are a variety of opportunities, depending on one's background and inclination. If someone is from a culinary background, there are opportunities for Executive Chefs or Production Managers. For those interested in Nutrition, one usually begins a career path as a Dietitian. For those interested in working with the elderly, there are opportunities in long term care. Those from restaurant or culinary backgrounds can work in our cafés and retail operations. Any of those paths can eventually lead to becoming a food service director depending on your ability to grow, manage and assume greater responsibilities.
What are compensation and benefit levels like?
Compensation varies widely depending on the size of the facility, the scope of the operation and geographic location. Generally, benefits in healthcare are good.
What would a culinary graduate or chef like about working in this field?
Regular hours, weekends off, generous benefits, the opportunity to provide delicious food to patients and customers who will appreciate your service. He or she would also enjoy working as part of a team.
What would someone interested in a management career find rewarding about this field?
It's a great field to learn about how to manage diverse groups of people. There are career opportunities in managing self-operated departments, in moving into healthcare administration and in working for a foodservice contract management company.
Does the ASHFSA have any programs available to help those interested in the field learn about internships or job opportunities?
We have an ADEPT program that we created some years ago to give clinical staff the ability to learn more about the non-clinical aspects of management, but it is not currently active. We have job opportunities posted on our Web site.
How can I find out more?
Go to www.ashfsa.org or call 1-800-620-6422.