In restaurants, chefs will often come out of the kitchen to mingle with customers and get direct feedback about their creations. It is one of the pleasures of being a chef to create that hospitality connection and experience first-hand the pleasure one can bring to others via your culinary skills.
In a hospital setting, where the “customers” often have way more on their minds than food, a face-to-face connection with a chef comes with a whole different level of meaning. There, the chef represents something comforting, familiar and human.
At Aurora Health Care, the culinary staff has made it a habit to visit the patient areas through a program called Adopt-a-Floor. This is especially important in areas like the cancer floors at Aurora St. Luke's Medical Center, where patients experience severe appetite loss — and where the program got its start.
A few years ago, Food Management Regional Director John Riegler had gone to the floor to investigate some low patient satisfaction scores and ended up making it a regular stop during meal rounds to talk to the patients. “I really got to know the patients up there and would get them what they wanted,” he says.
To make a long story short, Riegler asked Corporate Chef Jerry Malinowski to sub for him while he was out of town for a couple weeks, and Malinowski “went up there with his chef's hat and took what I was doing to a whole new level,” Riegler says. “I said, ‘Jerry, you've adopted my floor!’ and that's where it started.”
Since then, the program has been extended to include managers and even line and kitchen staff, who would accompany dietitians on floor rounds to meet patients, sometimes bearing special gifts such as freshly baked cookies.
The program not only helps increase patient satisfaction but staff satisfaction as well, says Riegler. “It gives them a sense of value in that we're all caregivers.”