What’s keeping healthcare operators up at night?

Published in FSD Update

By 
Dana Moran, Managing Editor

doctor headache coffee

Foodservice directors in hospitals and senior living facilities are feeling the crunch of industry-wide staffing shortages, just as their counterparts at colleges and universities are. But operators caring for these two segments take the hit in a different way. During a recent summit FSD hosted with a dozen hospital and senior living operators, the people behind some of the nation’s top programs told us what’s keeping them up at night. (FSD is sharing their thoughts anonymously to allow their answers to remain as candid as possible.)

Red tape is discouraging potential hires

Operators told us that, hands down, this was their No. 1 issue. “We all have a ton of great ideas, but if you don’t have people to execute, you’re dead in the water,” one FSD said. Because foodservice applicants face the same application process in healthcare as nurses and other medical staffers, it can take up to 10 or 12 weeks to onboard a new hire. For those who need jobs quickly—or can’t pass drug tests—that wait is unacceptable.

But solutions are out there: Another FSD detailed a pilot program being tested for her area that allows for web-based training instead of a two-day class, and an expedited onboarding schedule that gets foodservice staff in the door in three weeks rather than eight or 10. The FSD hopes the program will be made standard across the hospital group.

There’s a wide generational gap between senior living residents

This captive audience of diners can span decades—one operator reported a 38-year age gap between his youngest and oldest resident, while another counted at least three residents over the age of 100 in each of her seven communities. The Greatest Generation wants meat and potatoes and gravy, they say, while baby boomers (and their kids, who are encouraging the move to senior living) are looking for a more global, upscale experience.

The same gap exists between foodservice staffers

For many young hires, their new role in hospital or senior living foodservice often is the very first job they’ve held—their parents wanted them to enjoy the college experience. But those same parents sometimes will call in sick for the workers, or to let operators know about a last-minute vacation. “There’s this sense of entitlement,” one operator said, while another added that older workers resent being paired with the younger generation.

Meanwhile, the reverse was true for a third operator: They found that younger workers came in enthusiastic and ready to change the workplace for the better, but became discouraged after a couple of weeks. Looking for ways to recognize young hires for their work—even if it’s just a simple “thank you”—can go a long way, this operator says.

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