Jim McGrody: Patient Focused
Jim McGrody, director of food and nutrition at 650-bed Rex Healthcare in Raleigh, N.C., has a vast culinary background. He attended a culinary arts high school. He was a cook in the Army. After attending the Culinary Institute of America, he worked in several hotels and restaurants before moving into the non-commercial world, where he worked in college and university and B&I accounts. In 2002, McGrody was recruited to join a hospital’s foodservice team, where he says he was shocked at the difference between patient and retail offerings.
“The retail side of healthcare was basically the same [as other locations],” McGrody says. “What I became involved with was the patient side. When I saw patient food I couldn’t believe the difference in what we were serving our patients and our retail customers. I made it my mission to look at patient food and try to improve it.”
Changing the mindset: That’s exactly what McGrody has done in his 18 months at Rex. McGrody transitioned the department to self-op in January 2009. Since the transition, patient satisfaction has increased more than 50% to reach the 80th percentile on a consistent basis. For its efforts, the team was awarded the Streak Award from the hospital, a quarterly award honoring departments for their contributions to patient satisfaction.
McGrody attributes the increase in patient satisfaction to better quality food. “We went in with the mindset that we were going to change what a typical hospital menu would be,” McGrody says. “We really focused on heart-healthy foods. A lot of hospitals cut the salt in everything and they serve it across the board so they can meet all the different diets. We took a different approach.”
Instead of simply cutting salt, McGrody and his staff reduced salt and added fresh herbs, which are grown in the hospital’s campus garden. The foodservice team also changed the way food is cooked. “We do a lot of grilling and elemental cooking,” McGrody says. “We do a calypso chicken, which is a chicken breast that is marinated in fresh pineapple, mango, jalapeño and cilantro. It’s marinated overnight, and we grill it and serve it with a very light roasted tomato sauce. We top that with a little mango salsa.”
McGrody says items on the heart-healthy menu have nine grams of fat or less and between 200 and 300 milligrams of sodium.
Details make a difference: McGrody says the most rewarding part of his job is providing high-quality meals to patients because “they go through a lot during the course of their stay and what little comfort we can provide to make their stay happy and help them forget that they are in a hospital even for a brief second makes me feel good.”
For McGrody, it’s sometimes the little things that make all the difference. One small change that had a big impact was coffee. A local roaster, Larry’s Beans, was brought in and now all coffee served in both patient and retail foodservice is ground on premise. “A patient usually gets a tiny cup of cof- fee that goes up with the meal. We put a 20-ounce carafe on the tray, and they can pour their own coffee just like at a restaurant. It’s a detail touch.”
McGrody has been focused on patients since his first week in health-care foodservice. “I saw a lady looking for our catering department. It was she and her husband’s 50th wedding anniversary, and she wanted to do something special. He was a patient on a special floor, and I didn’t even know where that was. I told her I would do whatever I could. I had to take a taxi to go get fresh seafood. I cooked the meal and served it. I went home and didn’t think anything of it. It was just another meal, and I had cooked thou-
sands of them. A couple of weeks later I saw this lady again. She said, ‘My husband passed away a couple of days ago and you made our wedding anniversary so special. He talked about that meal until the time that he died. You will never know how much you impacted our lives with that meal.’ I realized for the first time in my whole cooking career that I had actually made a difference in someone’s life.”