Diet, nutrition prove vital to a patient’s health and healing

October 5, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,
Woman in black jacket and green shirt. Text reading "A conversation with Erica Raymond, M.S., R.D.N., director, Patient Food and Nutrition Services"

Did you know that Patient Food and Nutrition Services delivers more than 2,000 meals per day to patients at Michigan Medicine? Or that team members consult with patients regarding more than 100 different diets?

Indeed, the department has a complicated, yet extremely important job at Michigan Medicine.

Erica Raymond, M.S., R.D.N., was recently named the director of PFANS. In her new role, she oversees all areas of the department, including inpatient room service, registered dietitian nutritionists and the Milk Room.

In honor of Health Care Food Service Workers Week, Headlines recently sat down with Raymond to discuss her job, the importance of nutrition for patients at Michigan Medicine and the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead for her team.

Here’s what she had to say! 

Q: You are fairly new to your role as director of PFANS. What positions did you hold before taking over as director?

ER: I have been a part of the Patient Food and Nutrition Services team for more than 10 years. I started my career journey at U-M Health in 2009 as a dietetic intern. I then worked as a clinical dietitian in a variety of specialty areas including general medicine, thoracic surgery and surgical critical care. I was promoted to nutrition services manager in 2016 and to associate director of nutrition services in 2018. I am grateful for the quality and variety of professional and career development resources at Michigan Medicine. It’s a privilege to be a part of the PFANS team.

Q: Why is nutrition so important for patients at Michigan Medicine? How does PFANS fit into the bigger picture of patient care?

ER: At Michigan Medicine, we care for a diverse patient population with complex medical conditions. Our highly-skilled team of clinical dietitians work closely with patients, families and the other care providers to individualize nutrition care plans and goals for patients based on their unique clinical condition and nutrient needs. Our food service teams maintain reliable systems for procuring, inventorying, preparing and delivering food and nutrition therapy that is safe, inclusive and represents the high level of quality and service expected from our organization.

Our room service model allows patients and families to engage in their nutrition care. Call center associates are highly trained to assist patients in choosing meals and snacks that are appropriate based on their individualized nutrition plan and prescribed diet order. We have teams dedicated to delivering food, formula and nutrition supplements to inpatient and ambulatory care units, as well as to the bedside. Each patient interaction is an opportunity to affirm our commitment to patient safety, customer service and our Michigan Medicine core values.

Food and nutrition are a vital part of the patient experience. Quality nutrition is not only a critical component of health, wellness and recovery; food is also a representation of caring, healing, community and belonging. Food and nutrition is important to our patients — and patients are the center of all that we do.

Q: What has been the biggest challenge your teams have faced during the pandemic and how have you overcome them?

ER: The pandemic has introduced a pace of change unlike anything we have experienced before, and there are many aspects of our daily work that look different than they did two years ago. Our team has demonstrated creativity and innovation in response to supply and labor shortages, and has embraced the flexibility needed to adapt to changes in our work culture.

We have worked closely with our clinical colleagues and environment of care partners to adjust our food/formula preparation, delivery and service models in response changes occurring at a unit level. We have a dedicated team who maintain our food service software, to ensure that we provide timely, accurate and reliable service in such a dynamic environment.

Despite constraints, our team continues to make hot meals that are served to our communities through the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti Meals on Wheels program, in addition to serving thousands of meals per day on the main medical campus.

I am proud of the commitment and resilience of our team throughout the pandemic response, and the engagement of our team in embracing innovation as we adapted to change. PFANS has never lost sight of our shared priority to putting patients and families first, and our staff are essential to delivering mission critical service. Our team is our secret recipe.

Q: Are there any initiatives that you are excited about that your department is working on in the months and years ahead?

ER: I am excited about building the food services and systems that will allow us to meet the current and future needs of our patients and that support access to food and nutrition services. I look forward to integrating new technologies into our daily work that enhance safety, improve the patient experience and support our staff who deliver care and services to our patients every day. I am excited to increase commitment to sustainability initiatives. I am excited to continue to offer a menu and nutrition product formulary that are inclusive to the diverse populations and unique nutrition conditions we serve.

Q: What do you like to do outside of work?

ER: I enjoy spending time with my friends and family; cooking, baking (and eating); reading (mostly non-fiction); attending live theatre performances; and volunteering.

During Health Care Food Service Workers Week, be sure to thank a member of PFANS in your area!