Lisette Coston is proof that you can go home again. Several months after leaving Saint Francis Health System, in Tulsa, Okla., in 2011 for a job on the supplier side, Coston got the chance to return to her old job. She and Saint Francis are better for it.
Since returning in February 2012, Coston has been given new responsibilities, has overseen two renovations and is in the midst of a construction project that will add 150 beds and a new retail dining venue to the health system.
In 2011, after more than 20 years with Saint Francis, Coston had the opportunity to work for US Foods. She jumped into the role with her typical “go-getter” attitude.
“I loved the job,” she says. “I loved being able to go into other hospitals and work with foodservice directors to help them become more cost-effective.”
But it turned out that she couldn’t handle the travel. “I found myself on the road four days a week,” she recalls. “I really didn’t enjoy that part of it.”
Fortunately, her old job was still open. She reached out to administrators and “they took me back with open arms.” Her return has been welcomed not only by administrators and staff at St. Francis but also the healthcare community at large. Last year, Coston was chosen as president-elect for the Association for Healthcare Foodservice (AHF) and will succeed Laura Watson.
“Lisette is well-respected in the industry and very knowledgeable about the core of what self-operated foodservice is,” says Watson, system director for patient support services at Intermountain Healthcare, in Utah. “She is very results-oriented. Many people talk about things that need to get done, but Lisette gets right to, ‘how do we make it happen.’”
But her old job has grown since her return. Coston is now the executive director for support service, overseeing foodservice, environmental services, laundry and patient transportation.
“All these areas are about customer service and the patient experience, and we know that’s the core of what we do,” says Coston, whose departments comprise 505 FTEs.
Her biggest challenge is that no one has been hired to fill her role in foodservice. So she remains acting director of that department, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, since much of the construction and renovation being done has touched foodservice.
Last year Saint Francis completed a $1.25 million renovation of the main cafeteria. More recently the system renovated the call center, increasing the number of stations from three to 10, and added a second trayline to make the patient room service program more efficient. The storeroom was expanded, including a new freezer and increased walk-in refrigerator space. The dishroom is currently being renovated, and a new patient tower set to open later this year will include a grab-and-go retail venue overlooking the lobby “that will help offset some of the volume that will be coming to our other retail units.”
Health was a big focus of the renovation of the cafeteria. While the cafeteria still offers a wide variety of foods—hamburgers, sub sandwiches, pizza, burritos, hot entrées—the highlight of the new space has been Go Health.
“At Go Health we feature hot and cold entrées that meet certain nutritional requirements,” Coston explains. “It is a safe zone for people to go and know they are eating something that is low in fat and sodium and doesn’t exceed a certain calorie count.”
There also is a large grab-and-go cooler filled with parfaits, fruit cups, salads and sandwiches, many of which fit the parameters of Go Health.
“We’ve also done a beverage program where we offer canned versus bottled beverages,” Coston says. “We created graphics that show the difference in calorie counts if you change from a 20-ounce bottle to a 10-ounce can. We also included a lot more flavored waters and lower sugar items and we’ve arranged the coolers to make it easier to access the healthier beverages. We’ve seen a definite decrease in the sale of sugary beverages through the graphics and the arrangement of the coolers.”
The design of the new cafeteria, which also features a coffee kiosk, allows Coston’s department some flexibility that she says enhances both efficiency and profitability. At 6:30 a.m. the entire area is open and remains that way until 3 p.m. Then the main servery is shut down, while the grab-and-go area, the Go Health station and the coffee bar stay open. After 5 p.m. the servery reopens and the coffee area is closed.
With the opening of the new patient tower, most construction within the health system will have been completed, which is fine with Coston. It comes just in time for her to take on the volunteer role of president of AHF.
“Laura Watson has really tried to identify our strategic plan and narrow the focus a little more,” Coston says. “Her goal is to set the stage for me over the next year. Laura has been very instrumental in including me in all the major decisions and helping to transition me into that role. I’m a planner and as long as I know where I need to go I’m good.”