Suzanne Cryst: Home Maker

Suzanne Cryst, RD, LD, food service director at Maria Joseph Living Center, part of the Premier Health Partners network in Dayton, Ohio, provides multiple home-style choices to allow residents to feel they're in their own home. Staff training to improve the retherm process has heightened food quality, reduced plate waste and increased patient satisfaction.
—FSD of the Month, December 2006

Having spent four years working in nutrition services in several acute-care facilities, Suzanne Cryst, RD, LD, knew there had to be a better fit for her brand of clinical and management talents. Buoyed by American Dietetic Association mentors who helped her pinpoint her strengths, she found what she was seeking in working with the elderly: first at Summit and Hilltop Nursing Home in Cincinnati (1979 to 1992); and currently at Maria Joseph Living Care Center in Dayton.

"I'm one of those fortunate RDs," she confides. "I found my niche in full-time long-term care, working on the management side as well as the clinical. It gives you a chance to see how your decision-making can have positive outcomes."

Maria Joseph, part of the Premier Health Partners network, is a 351-licensed-bed facility also serving an additional 40 residents who live independently in apartments. Since Cryst arrived there four and a half years ago, she has dealt with day-to-day issues on site, as well as serving as liaison with other departments of nutrition services in the network to ensure that her facility has a voice in decisions. In Dayton, Premier members include Miami Valley Hospital, Good Samaritan Hospital, Middletown Regional Hospital and Samaritan North Health Centers.

Satisfaction (almost) guaranteed: At Maria Joseph, Cryst never loses sight of what lies at the heart of this resident-focused care center: choice. Residents choose to come there to live and, when it's mealtime, they must be provided with nutritious and pleasing options. Occasionally, however, delivering the "pleasing" part has been Cryst's challenge, especially during the first few months on the job. Today, she can point to a customer satisfaction rating that has soared from approximately 55% to 88%—in less than five years—as measured by in-house surveys and also by those provided by the National Society for Healthcare Foodservice Management (HFM) Benchmark Express program.

"Our stats are also run with staffing," she reports. "We went down from about 80 FTEs (in 2000) to approximately 50 now, so we're in the 25th percentile for staffing hours as measured by HFM benchmarking. Our food cost is usually in the 30th percentile in benchmarking; having the buying power of Premier since 2000, when we went to a retherm system, has been a lot of help for this 75-year-old facility. It hasn't happened overnight but rather over time."

Cryst has tweaked and innovated in order to improve retherm product while educating and communicating with her staff and residents. "When I arrived two years after this facility went to a retherm system, there were still some challenges that needed to be overcome," she recalls. "Staff and residents didn't fully understand what was going on. They needed someone to help move it forward."

Retherm management: Cryst needed to address how to properly plate and deliver these meals as well as manage the system. Since staff didn't understand the science involved and the procedures for testing time and temperature, outcomes were inconsistent. "We also had some residents who thought that because we didn't cook items on-site from scratch, it wasn't as good quality as before," she explains.

"Our items are prepared at the Central Production Unit where they produce separate items for each of the hospitals (that are part of Premier Health Partners). The hospitals work on a one-week cycle but ours is a four-week cycle, so I select and write menus based on what they can offer us. That makes a big difference in how items are perceived. We had to communicate clearly that 'residents are not getting leftover product served yesterday at one of the hospitals.' It was a process of education and communication that is so vital in effecting change."

More From FoodService Director

Industry News & Opinion

University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minn., has replaced a fajita bar in one of its dining halls with a superfoods bar, Tommie Media reports.

Aiming to provide more options for athletes and students with dietary restrictions, the new bar offers diners a choice of protein with a variety of toppings, such as beans, fruit, couscous and quinoa.

The superfoods bar has made a few appearances on campus since it was first tried for the school’s football players last summer.

“Word of mouth is getting out, and every day I get a few more people,” Ryan Carlson, a cook at the...

Sponsored Content
gluten free diet

From Stouffer’s.

A large part of menuing allergen-friendly cuisine is deciding which gluten-free items to serve.

In particular, college dining hall operators must decide whether to make gluten-free items in-house or to order gluten-free items from a manufacturer. Some factors to consider are: the size of the university, the demand for gluten-free options,and the ability to have separate gluten-free storage and workspaces in the university dining hall kitchen.

According to FoodService Director , 77% of college and university operators purchase their gluten-free...

Industry News & Opinion

Reading Hospital in West Reading, Pa., is using robots to help deliver patient meals, BCTV reports.

The eight robots, named TUGs, will be used to transport meals from the hospital’s nutrition services department to patient floors at Reading HealthPlex for Advanced Surgical & Patient Care.

Moving at three miles per hour, the robots will follow preprogrammed routes to the HealthPlex, where room ambassadors will remove room service carts from the TUGs and deliver them to patients. The TUGs will then return to nutrition services with dirty dishes for cleaning.

The...

Industry News & Opinion

Sodexo has partnered with fast casual Blaze Pizza to offer the chain’s signature pizzas, salads, beverages and desserts at select venues served by Sodexo, including colleges and universities.

Bill Lacey, senior vice president of marketing at Sodexo, said that Blaze’s growth in the fast-casual sector drove the partnership. Blaze opened its first unit in 2012 near the University of California at Irvine. Its pizzas are flash fired, cooking in under 180 seconds, according to the chain—a selling point for busy customers.

FSD Resources