Meet Michigan Medicine: PFANS

March 27, 2017  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

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Patient Food and Nutrition Services, or PFANS, is a collection of more than 250 employees dedicated to delivering great food and great service 24 hours a day.

Indeed, for patients and families at Michigan Medicine, having a warm, nutritious meal delivered to the bedside at any time plays an essential role in the patient experience.

“We hear all the time how important food is for our patients,” said Stephen Schifano, the department’s executive chef. “Food is one of the few things patients can control and gives them a sense of normalcy and comfort.”

From educating the next generation of nutrition experts to managing milk and specialized formulas for newborns in the Milk Room at C&W, here’s what you may not know about PFANS.

Personalized room service with a smile

More than 2,200 times a day, patients call PFANS to place an order from a restaurant-style menu. On the call, employees help patients navigate any dietary restrictions or nutrition challenges they may face.

“Working in the call center can be a very complicated job,” said Diane Knibbs, associate director, patient food services. “We have patients on more than 100 different diets and the call center staff needs to be able to talk them through what fits within their diet and what doesn’t.”

The call center staff also must help a diverse patient population feel comfortable at Michigan Medicine.

“Whether it’s a Kosher or Halal meal, we help everyone find food that fits their cultural needs,” said Knibbs. “And if a patient isn’t physically able to make a phone call or read a menu due to a health condition, someone from the call center will come up to their room and help them order at their bedside.”

Once an order is placed, it is received by one of two kitchens on the main medical center campus, at University Hospital or C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. The food is then prepared, assembled and delivered on trays directly to a patient’s room.

“It’s a seamless process, thanks to the teamwork and professionalism of everyone involved,” said Joyce Kerestes, director of PFANS.

While the department consistently receives positive feedback about the quality of the food, Kerestes said the department is proudest of its customer service.

“The patient is always our focus,” Kerestes said, adding that all PFANS employees undergo customer service training as part of the department’s orientation process. “Whether our team members help patients find the perfect meal or make sure a food tray is placed in the most comfortable position, they always do it with a smile on their face.”

Teams of nutrition experts

While inpatient room service is an integral service provided by PFANS, the department’s influence is felt well before any food order is placed.

Registered dietitian nutritionists — or RDNs — help guide the dietary needs of each patient upon admission. They round with doctors, nurses, social workers and other members of the health care team.

“Physicians often rely on RDNs to be the expert on nutrition,” said Kit Werner, associate director of nutrition services. “RDNs help decide the best food and nutrient options that will help a patient heal as quickly as possible.”

Dietitians are able to craft the ideal meal plan because PFANS takes meticulous care to log as much information as possible about what is served.

“There isn’t a gram of protein or milligram of sodium that we don’t account for in our recipes,” said Schifano, who added that all PFANS recipes are standardized through a highly automated system. “We know how important accurate nutrient content is to helping our patients heal.”

Additionally, RDNs are diligent in looking for signs of malnutrition and keep track of whether patients are able to absorb proper nutrients orally.

“If adult or pediatric patients struggle with getting their nutrients in traditional ways, RDNs will suggest tube feedings or parenteral nutrition,” Werner said.

In the Milk Room, dietetic technicians store, prepare and deliver infant and pediatric customized formulas and milk to inpatients 24 hours a day.

Looking ahead

PFANS employees take care not to overlook any portion of the patient experience, often serving as educators for patients and families.

“In addition to the RDNs and call center employees promoting optimal nutrition while patients are in the hospital, staff members also consult with many patients prior to discharge to ensure their recovery continues successfully at home,” said Ann McLean, associate director, patient food services. “That continuity of care is essential to our patients’ success.”

While training patients to thrive following their hospital stay, the department also runs a dietetic internship program. A group of 16 interns per year — made up of college graduates — spend 10 months on campus training to be a clinical RDN or pediatric clinical RDN.

Nearly 40 percent of the current RDNs in PFANS are graduates of the program.

“We are incredibly proud of the work PFANS does,” Kerestes said. “We know that our employees are making a difference every day by striving to provide the ideal patient experience and to provide top notch nutrition intervention.”

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