The hospital cafeteria: Keeping doctors fed and patients healthy

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When looking at a hospital from an institutional level, it can be easy to ignore the cafeteria – but that's a mistake. The cafeteria is what keeps doctors, nurses and other staff members fed, energized and alert so that they can perform at an optimal level. It's also responsible for delivering hundreds of patient meals each day, many of which must cater to special dietary needs. The cafeteria can serve as a meeting place for visitors, offering them a place to gather themselves and get a good meal.

When thought about in that way, the cafeteria employees who work so hard to keep everything running smoothly are some of the unsung heroes of the health care world. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are around 115,000 cafeteria workers employed at nursing homes, assisted living facilities and hospitals. They may not be in direct contact with the patients seeking treatment, but they nevertheless have an impact on patients' overall experience at the health care facility.

Cafeterias are responsible for catering to special dietary needs.Cafeterias are often responsible for catering to special dietary needs.

What are the responsibilities of a hospital cafeteria worker?
Visitors to the hospital cafeteria only see a fraction of what the workers there are responsible for. On a daily basis, cafeteria employees have responsibilities that range from sanitation issues, nutrition, interpersonal communication and even technical systems.

Meal preparation
The most common task dealt with by a cafeteria worker is, of course, meal preparation. According to the Canadian imprint of Reader's Digest, most hospital menus are developed by an outside vendor. Meals must be made according to policies established by the hospital administration and the vendor. For the general cafeteria, this means preparing meals that fit requirements of both volume and nutrition.

Sanitation
In any institutional cafeteria, sanitation must be a top priority. Cafeteria hospitals, which deal with highly sensitive people, must be extremely careful when it comes to this task. OSHA and FDA regulations must be followed to the letter when it comes to preparing the food and cleaning the dining area. This means that the cafeteria workers must be vigilant about sanitizing the cafeteria throughout the day.

Additionally, cafeteria workers should be conscious of the safety risks associated with food prep. Any time there are sharp objects in use or the floors become slippery, there is a risk of injury. To avoid these accidents, employees should receive training on how to properly use cutting devices. It would also be beneficial to wear slip-resistant shoes, as it would mitigate the risk of falling on a wet floor.

Technical systems
As our society becomes more driven by technology, no industry is unaffected. In the world of food preparation, this means becoming more familiar with computerized ordering systems. Cafeteria workers may be required to use these systems to order ingredients from a vendor or to take orders from customers.

The hospital cafeteria is an integral part of the establishment, and its workers are important to the overall success of the institution. Maintaining good sanitation procedures and following proper food preparation guidelines will keep healthcare staff at the top of their game and create a positive environment for the patients.

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