Julie Jones: Busy Buckeye

Julie Jones, R.D., has a simple measure for job satisfaction. “I always consider it a good job if at the end of the day I’m still learning and find excitement in what I’m doing,” explains the director of nutrition services at the Ohio State University Medical Center.

By that yardstick, Jones has a great job, because there surely is no lack of learning at this 855-bed complex made up of five hospitals including a cancer center, cardiac center and neuro-psychiatric facility. On top of her regular job as head of a department that provides foodservice for all these hospitals, Jones is part of the team creating a two-phase master space plan, the first phase of which will create a new cancer and critical care center and add nearly 300 beds—and 500,000 meals—to the campus by 2012.

“We’re having a building torn down and more buildings built in the same space, so there are a lot of phasing issues,” she notes.

Jones’s boss believes she is just the right person for the task.

“This project requires lots of informed decisions, forward thinking and projections,” explains Mary Angela Miller, administrative director for the medical center. “JJ has been identified as one leader who is able to capture operational concepts into understandable information and data that can be used to plan accordingly. She’s also a good resource manager, and is good at planning and keeping to budget.”

View from the top: Perhaps the best aspect of the planning process, according to Jones, is that it has forced her to look at her department in a new way.

“This has been a very difficult process because, you know, we think of the services we provide, and not necessarily the square footage we need to provide those services,” she notes. “From what I saw I felt we had some significant issues we had to address. In 2001, our meal volume was 1.1 million meals. In 2007, we are at about 1.8 million. The estimated volume by the time we put in these new buildings will be over 2.3 million meals, and our space is definitely tight.”

Aging system: Compounding the challenge is a tray delivery system that Jones believes has reached the end of its useful life.

“The system was put in place in 1996, and we made a significant upgrade in 2002 to add robotics delivery, but we know that the system will not last,” she says. “At the same time, the medical center wants to move forward with some kind of on-demand service for patients, much like room service. So we really have some challenges.”

Jones has engaged Ruck-Shockey as her operational consultant and JEM Associates as design consultant on the project, which will include the addition of hospitality centers. These centers, which will facilitate on-demand foodservice, are currently being tested in the James Cancer Center, on a long-term hematology-oncology unit.

“It has been a fascinating challenge because we are a cook-chill facility,” Jones explains. “So we are envisioning a model for room service that will use cook-chill as a base for production, but allow tray make-up and everything else at a point much closer to the patients, in these hospitality centers.”

But challenges like this are nothing new for Jones. A clinical dietitian by education, Jones found herself immersed in management even while still studying in Ohio State’s medical dietetics program during a summer job at a 93-bed hospital in western Ohio.

“The two dietitians there said, ‘Julie, we’re going to teach you foodservice,’ and they showed me a different perspective than I was going to school for, which was probably to be more of a nutritional support dietitian,” Jones recalls.

When Jones graduated, she returned to that same hospital, now known as Mercer Health, where she worked for a little more than two years.

“My boss told me this would be a great learning opportunity for me,” Jones says. “Well, she ended up leaving the position and I became the department director with very little experience. But I got the chance to see a lot more than just clinical nutrition.”

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