He Delivers Hospital Food With Empathy, Patience and a Smile
One in an ongoing series
It’s safe to say that hospital food, however nutritious, rarely inspires rapturous reviews. Sick patients often are on restricted diets that can be bland and uninviting.
So what’s it like to be the bearer of this oft-maligned food, the person who brings patients their food trays?
If you’re Steven Seth, who delivers meals for 50-plus patients on two floors of Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia – it’s all good.
Yes, he’s occasionally – rarely – cursed at. Yes, patients complain. Can they just get a cheesesteak and fries? Um, no.
“It can be hard,” says Seth, whose title is nutrition assistant. But he takes it all in admirable stride.
“I always go into the room in a joyful way and introduce myself,” he says of the patients. “I speak to them and try to make them feel a little better.”
Seth says he always reminds himself that he could be the one in the hospital bed – or it could be his wife, or one of his three children, or anyone else whom he loves. So he tries to treat patients as if they are family.
“I get along with everybody,” he says.
Seth’s job is to keep the refrigerator filled with snacks and drinks for two floors in the Levy Building where he works, then take food orders from patients, key them into a computer, and deliver their meals.
If patients don’t like what they’ve ordered, he’ll bring them a sandwich. If they want something that’s against doctor’s orders, he’ll ask the nurse to talk to them.
If they can’t read because of a language barrier or literacy issues, he’ll read the menu to them. If they can’t find something they want to eat, he’ll make suggestions.
“The baked chicken seems to be the favorite,” he says.
And the biggest complaint? “The food isn’t hot enough.”
Another of Seth’s responsibilities is to cajole patients into filling in the menu for their next meal, which they sometimes resist. Seth is so successful at coaxing patients to order – between 95% and 100% of patients on his floors comply – that his managers cited that fact in nominating him to be an Einstein All Star.
Monica Valentine, Manager of Food Services, and Karina Radziak, Director of Dietary Services, said Seth “works hard” to ensure that every patient makes a menu selection that conforms to the medical diet they’re on, which “improves satisfaction as well as ensures patients are compliant” with their diets.
“If the patients get what they want, it decreases problems,” they wrote in Seth’s All Star nomination.
The All Star designation is awarded quarterly by Einstein’s Engagement Committee to recognize employees who go above and beyond their duties.
Seth learned customer service from his previous career in restaurant food service. He worked at the Cheesecake Factory for seven years and Chick-fil-A for 10 years. “I was the steward who controlled all the ordering and had to deal with customer service,” he says.
And he learned the patience necessary for his job at home.
“I’ve been married for 19 years,” Seth says. “If you’ve been married that long, you have no choice but to learn patience.”