Five Questions for: Patti Oliver

FoodService Director - Five Questions for Patti OliverPatti Oliver, director of nutrition services, and her staff at 525-bed Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles, know just how important it is for patients to learn how to eat right. The department offers special diets, but Oliver knows educating patients to eat right once they leave the hospital is equally important. That's why the staff is creating a cookbook for patients to help them continue using the therapeutic power of food. 


How many different special diet menus do you have for patients and what are they?

We have 13 different menus, but some of those are not necessarily special diets because they include regular and pediatric. Some examples are regular pediatrics, carbohydrate controlled, low sodium, low potassium, low bacteria, pureed and mechanical/soft.  There are between 25 and 30 approved diets at UCLA. Because our patients are so sick here, it’s not uncommon to have a patient on a combination of four diets. For example, a patient can be carbohydrate controlled, low sodium, low potassium and fluid restricted.

What kind of education do you do with patients regarding their doctor-prescribed special diet?

Any patient who is on a therapeutic diet gets a diet instruction from either a diet technician or a registered dietitian. So someone will go into the patient’s room and say, “This is what you’re allowed to have on your diet and this is what’s not allowed.” Any patient who is on certain medication might have a drug-nutrient interaction gets a special education on the way that the drug may interact with food.

What kind of education do you give patients regarding maintaining special diet specifications after they leave the hospital?

We give them educational materials, which they can use when they are eating at home. One thing we are doing right now is writing a cookbook. It’s actually kind of a cookbook/healthy-eating book. We are trying to make it very specific for the types of patients that we would have here at the hospital. It will include recipes that could be used once a patient gets home. Some of the recipes are ones that we are currently using. We have a different chapter with disease-specific recipes. We are also coding the recipes with icons so that they show if they are approved for [patients like] diabetics or cardiac patients. We hope to have that done within the next year and we will give them to patients once they leave.

How do you address special diet requests from customers in your retail operations?

People want to know the nutritional facts. We have our wellness program, so we have a green apple on items that are heart healthy. We are working to get more and more nutritional analysis [posted]. Our next goal is to have it up on our Web site so people can look up the nutritional data on every item. The problem with posting all this is that it takes up a lot of space. At the deli we have a binder out with all of the information for the items that people could put on their sandwiches.

What are the most commonly requested special diets in retail?

We haven’t really had too much of this, other than vegetarian. We always have vegetarian entrées and vegetarian soups and, of course, the salad bar.

More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation
ucmc model

With a budget and timeline in place, and the support of the university behind them, the foodservice team at the University of Chicago Medical Center was ready to get rolling with the renovation of one of its patient services kitchens. The facility, which services the hospital’s Center for Care and Discovery and Comer Children’s Hospital, was tripling in size to serve two additional patient floors, to the tune of $9 million. But that didn’t mean immediately jumping in with steel and screws.

“First, we cut out scaled pieces of paper and moved things around,” says Elizabeth Lockwood,...

Ideas and Innovation
granola bars

Where possible, we make grab-and-go items reimbursable. For example, if we’re serving a fruit and milk smoothie, we let students take a granola bar or other grain component to make it count as a meal.

Managing Your Business
pizza toppings

When the FoodService Director editors first started tossing around the idea of an “influencers” issue, our minds immediately turned to, well, foodservice directors. After all, so much of the learning in this industry is a peer-to-peer experience, and it’s your influence that inspires the content in every single issue of this magazine.

Then we imagined the massive infighting that would occur if we tried to whittle ourselves down to a list of just 20 influential operators and thought better of it. There’s already enough arguing for us to do about which pizza toppings are best (...

Ideas and Innovation
bolognese sauce

We’re trying to bring scratch cooking to all the elementary schools, but we’re taking it dish by dish. Right now, we satellite a lot of the dishes out. This month we made a Bolognese from scratch, and went to each of the schools to talk to them about the process and see if they could implement it. It helps us find out the hurdles and what they are going to need to make it work.

FSD Resources