Malinda Swank, CDM, CFPP (left) and Katie Routh, RD, LD are proud of the restaurant-quality food served at RCH

Ringgold County Hospital patients now can choose what’s for dinner, and lunch, and breakfast! With a new “Room Service” approach to meals, patients can order from a menu, and their selections are delivered to them, just like in a first-class hotel. Dietitian Katie Routh explained that before this change, people in the hospital and their visiting family members were served a pre-planned menu each day and their meals were delivered at a set time. “Now we have a “restaurant” menu. They can choose what they want, and what time they want it delivered.”

The menus were created by the dietary staff in-house. They started from scratch with traditional favorites like roast beef and meat loaf. They added more exotic options like chicken Alfredo and baked salmon while still keeping all the meals as healthy as possible. “Some things are not allowed on cardiac diets or renal diets,” said Katie. “We keep diabetic diets low in carbohydrates. In the process of patients making choices, we’re helping them manage what they eat.”

Implementing the new approach has taken a team effort. The hospital’s dietary, nursing, and medical staff all work together to ensure it runs smoothly. “The timing of meal deliveries needs to be coordinated with medication timing, for example,” said Katie. There’s a significant upside for RCH patients. “It’s one of the few things they can control while they’re hospitalized. People want to feel that they have choices,” she added. Another, perhaps unintended benefit is the amount of food that is no longer wasted.

Katie and her team are getting really good feedback. “We’ve asked patients what they think, and we’re using the suggestions we get. We’re constantly reviewing the menus, tweaking recipes and planning future menu changes. It’s kind of fun!” Patients are weighing in and loving the new approach. “I had to stay for a while at the hospital and I enjoyed the new room service menu!” said a recent patient. “I had something different every day. It was cool to see that I had many choices to choose from on my diet plan. You could order anything at any time of the day.” One lesson learned is that people staying in the hospital want comfort food to make them feel better. The top two most requested menu items are roast beef and meat loaf.

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