Blog / Nine Essential Skills Every Food Service Worker in Healthcare Should Have

Nine Essential Skills Every Food Service Worker in Healthcare Should Have

While a food service worker in healthcare must possess much of the same knowledge and most of the same skills as a food service worker in any sector or industry, they must also hone a specific set of knowledge and skills that are directly related to healthcare nutrition and the unique demands of working in a long-term care or hospital kitchen.

Read on to learn about the ideal, essential skills every healthcare food service worker should have.

The Unique Environment of Healthcare Food Service

The all-important link between diet and health is well-known by just about everyone. However, fewer people stop to consider the supreme importance of nutrition in a healthcare setting. While healthcare food service workers certainly endeavor to create food that tastes and looks great, nutrition is the core concentration here. After all, the highly vulnerable patient population in a hospital or long-term care facility needs all the help available to get and stay healthy.

In addition to their increased focus on overall nutritional value, food service workers in the healthcare sector must place a more concerted emphasis on catering to individuals with special nutritional needs. In particular, they must learn the importance of recognizing and addressing medical dietary restrictions—which might protect patients from experiencing severe allergic reactions as well as otherwise aid in recovery and promote general good health.

Technical Skills

From preparing menus and food to delivering meals and cleaning hospital kitchens, food service workers in healthcare must have a solid foundation of technical skills related to their specific areas of work. Given the enhanced emphasis on healthcare nutrition, food service workers must operate with the knowledge that the proper diet can both speed wound healing and strengthen the immune system.

The first three items on our essential skills list encompass the technical aspects of healthcare food service work:

1. Safe Food Handling and Preparation

Like the physician’s pledge to “first, do no harm,” the food service worker in healthcare must protect patients from foodborne illnesses before they can begin to enhance recovery and wellness through diet. Therefore, they must place a supreme emphasis on sanitation in food preparation. This means taking care to maintain cleanliness, prevent contamination, and manage common food allergens during all stages of food storage, preparation, and delivery.

2. Knowledge of Dietary Restrictions and Nutrition

As previously discussed, enhancing general nutrition and paying close attention to patient dietary restrictions are crucial healthcare food service worker responsibilities. In some cases, a medical facility might go even further by developing personalized therapeutic diets for their most vulnerable patients.

3. Equipment Operation

Of course, food service workers must be able to adeptly operate all equipment that is relevant to their individual job descriptions. This might include anything from baking bread in a commercial oven to sanitizing silverware in an industrial dishwasher. Proper training in equipment operation is essential for food service efficiency and safety alike.

4. Inventory Management

From stocking refrigerators and cabinets to ordering new supplies, food service workers might be tasked with any number of inventory management duties. By managing inventory effectively, you can be sure you have everything you need ready at hand exactly when you need it.

Soft Skills

Beyond these fundamental technical or “hard” skills, healthcare food service workers should possess various non-tech or “soft” skills if they want to succeed in their profession. Some of the most significant of these soft skills complete our list of the nine essential skills every food service worker in healthcare should have:

5. Patient Interaction

Often positioned on the front line of patient contact, healthcare food service workers serve as the public face of the organizations they represent. Beyond emphasizing helpful and friendly service in their direct patient interactions, these workers are uniquely positioned to communicate patient needs, concerns, and preferences to facility administrators and medical providers.

6. Teamwork and Collaboration

The food service worker in the healthcare sector is generally part of a much larger network of services that might include doctors, nurses, orderlies, dietitians, nutritionists, and numerous facility administrators. To provide the very best patient care, healthcare food service workers must learn to collaborate effectively with these professionals and work well as a team.

7. Time Management

While professionals of all kinds need to manage their time effectively, the particular demands of the healthcare environment make time management especially important for all team members. Food service must often find a place within a packed schedule of medical procedures and therapeutic treatments. For this reason and others, food service workers must learn and employ critical time management skills such as task segmentation and prioritization.

8. Flexibility and Adaptability

Healthcare food service workers cater to individual patient needs in terms of food allergies as well as the sodium and sugar restrictions of patients with conditions like heart disease and diabetes. They must also be prepared to serve patients who are vegetarians or vegans. However, menu flexibility is only the beginning of the ways in which healthcare food service workers continually adapt to succeed. For example, the healthcare employment news outlet Caring Support presents the case of a food service worker who dresses like a patient to gain the trust of patients with dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

9. Problem-Solving

A big part of exhibiting flexibility and adaptability is learning to think on your feet. Although healthcare food service workers typically work under the direction and guidance of dietitians and facility administrators, they are regularly called upon to solve daily, practical problems with little or no oversight. Thus, problem-solving is a highly desirable skill for food service employers in healthcare settings.

Continuous Learning and Professional Development

Due to the constantly evolving nature of dietary science and best industry practices, food service workers in the healthcare industry must engage in continuous learning and professional development. This means that they should strive to stay current on the latest food service techniques and trends. Furthermore, healthcare food service workers who seek career advancement and improve the quality of their work should carefully assess and consider all opportunities for further training and certification.

Food Service Worker in Healthcare Program

Of course, one of the best ways to ensure you have the right knowledge and skills for a career in healthcare food service is to complete a dedicated training program in the food services field. The Food Services Worker program at Medix College is designed to give a well-rounded and up-to-date education in “hard skill” areas that include food safety, kitchen sanitation and food preparation. It also offers exceptional opportunities to hone in on “soft skills,” such as effective interpersonal communication with patients, coworkers, and supervisors.

Our unique focus on healthcare nutrition examines the basic principles of a therapeutic diet to meet a wide range of medical and general wellness needs. Students learn how to plan meals with concentrations on specific medical conditions and the nutritional support required for their effective treatment.

Food Service Worker Courses Online – Learn More Today

If you are interested in a rewarding career in healthcare food service, you want to pursue the food service certification and degree program that’s right for you. At Medix College, our Food Services Worker program offers essential guidance in the various roles and responsibilities of the healthcare food services worker. It also provides extended training in areas that range from financial management to TPSC (Thought Patterns for a Successful Career) mind setting. Even better, all Medix College courses are offered entirely online for exceptional scheduling flexibility and optimal student convenience. Fill out a short general inquiry form today for more information about the Food Services Worker program or any other educational program at Medix College.

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