Homemade chicken noodle soup. Slow-cooked lean beef with potatoes, onions, celery and carrots. Freshly sliced peaches and pears served on a bed of low-fat cottage cheese.
These tasty dishes sound like choices from one of Oklahoma City’s fine-dining restaurants, and yet they are offered by an unlikely source – a hospital. Yes, this is Mercy Health Center’s new answer for hospital food – fresh, made-to-order meals served promptly by a hospitable wait staff at the time of a patient’s choosing.
The concept – borne from a sincere evaluation of service standards – recently earned Mercy national recognition as Press Ganey’s 2010 “Success Story Award” recipient. The award is the culmination of more than three years of intense evaluations, planning and training aimed at dramatically improving food quality, temperature and presentation.
“The essence of our plan was fairly simple,” said Tom Peterson, Mercy’s director of support services. “We wanted to serve meals our patients might find at a hotel or top restaurant.”
Yet reaching that goal was far from simplistic. Mercy chefs, bakers, waiters and even dishwashers all committed to changing the kitchen culture. Servers went as far as to learn a script on how to professionally deliver food before reviewing their own video auditions. New uniforms also prepared staff members for their engaging roles. Nine different menus were crafted to meet the varied nutritional needs of patients, and freshness became the norm. Local produce is purchased whenever possible. The end result was happier patients.
“I really felt like I was in a nice restaurant,” said patient Deborah Terlip of Edmond. “I appreciated the wide variety of food I could select off the menu, and the ability to order my food whenever hungry. It was a pleasant surprise for someone who unexpectedly went from an emergency room to a hospital bed.”
A survey of patients brought in a wave of positive comments, prompting one woman to exclaim, “Food gets an A+++++ rating.” Another man wrote simply, “Excellent service and tasty food.”
“Bland, tasteless food is what people generally expect when they stay in a hospital,” said Melissa Hackney, Mercy’s director of operations. “Well, that no longer applies at Mercy.”