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Food & Nutrition Services Adapts to New Challenges

Pulling together in the face of adversity.

Melissa “Missy” Santoro, Director of Food & Nutrition Services at Memorial Regional Hospital, has been leading teams here for more than 20 years. She is made for this moment, saying that she is the type of person that “runs toward the fire, rather than away from it.”

Missy has called on her experience and her fortitude in recent months, as the pandemic forced her team to adapt and change quickly. “We had to rethink how we got food to COVID patients and to the COVID unit workers, as well as how we operated our cafeteria and the physician dining rooms,” she explained.

It was important to keep clinical staff well-hydrated and satiated with grab-n-go meals. Grab-n-go also replaced self-service food bars in the cafeteria. Tables needed to be removed to adhere to social distancing guidelines, and there had to be limits put on the capacity of people in dining areas.

“We have an incredible team. In the face of adversity, it’s amazing how quickly they pull together,” says Missy. “I am always so proud of them. It stems from being open and communicating – whether it’s one on one or in small groups – and giving them the facts.”

“That comes from our executive team. The transparency of telling the employee what they need to know. Being up front and honest. This executive team and administration look at the big picture. They ask for input and make decisions with the employees in mind.”

Communication is especially important as the Food & Nutrition Services team ranges from entry-level kitchen workers to registered dietitians with master’s degrees. Missy must “connect the dots” as to how a situation impacts each of them and their families, as well as the patients and their multidisciplinary care teams.

“Nurse managers and clinical managers see Food & Nutrition Services as a part of the team that is helping patients get better,” Missy explains. “Patients can choose their food for the most part unless they have specific dietary needs. We need to be ever evolving and up on the newest and greatest food trends, while also being culturally and clinically appropriate.”

“This is a rewarding job if you’re an individual who likes change and creativity. Being able to provide a culinary service really makes us shine. We have the ability not to be doing just one thing as there are so many facets of the environment.”

That’s why Missy looks for people with the right attitude. Someone who can work in a high-volume setting and be accountable for always putting the patient first. Candidates who want to learn, have a strong commitment to quality, and believe in doing the right thing can find growth at Memorial Healthcare System.

Missy stresses that Food & Nutrition Services can be a great stepping stone to a healthcare career. It’s a way to get a foot in the door and experience what it is like to work for a not-for-profit health system. You can learn more now when you search our jobs and apply online.