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A Day in the Life in the Catering Department at NGH

Martina McCabe, a Multi Task Attendant in the Catering Department at Naas General Hospital tells us about meeting nutritional needs of patients during COVID-19. This article was published in the Leinster Leader and Kildare Now on 8th June 2020.

A Day in the Life in the Catering Department at Naas General Hospital
By Martina McCabe, Naas General Hospital

Martina McCabe

The Catering Department has a vital part to play when it comes to patient care as we hope to meet all their nutritional needs as part of their recovery.

Hello my name is Martina McCabe, I am a Multi Task Attendant in the Catering Department at Naas General Hospital. I’ve been in Naas just over 8 years now. On my roster I could be assigned to the kitchen or a ward.

My alarm has gone off at 6:30am in the morning and I have been assigned to a ward specifically designated for patients who are affected by COVID-19 and the Coronary Care Unit today. I tend to leave my house at 7:10am as I don’t know how traffic is going to be. Once I am at the hospital, I go and change into my uniform and make my way to the ward, having stopped off beforehand to have my temperature taken and recorded.

The shift is from 8:00am to 6.30pm. Once we are in our pantry we then have to go down to the nurses’ station and get a diet sheet for the day. The diet sheet contains information regarding patient’s dietary requirements e.g. if a patient is on normal diet, a modified consistency diet or may be fasting for a procedure. We would also find out from the nurse as to which rooms are restricted access and which rooms have COVID-19 patients in them as we would have to wear appropriate PPE, including gowns, aprons, gloves and masks.

We begin to get everything ready for breakfast, set the trays, make tea and toast and then we begin our breakfast service. Before COVID-19, the patient’s would see our faces and know who they were talking too. We greet our patients with a “good morning, how are you today and what would you like for your breakfast”. We try to cater to everyone as we would have selection of cereal and we also serve hot porridge, tea, toast ,coffee and juices. If there is a patient that doesn’t like anything on offer, we will always try to accommodate them.

Once breakfast has finished and we have collected all the patient’s trays, we begin to clean up the pantry; our cleaning schedule takes place throughout the day, in between breakfast and lunch. We receive a menu for the patients every morning and there is a variety of choice for the patients, including vegan and vegetarian options and we cater for people with food allergies.

Fresh water is given to our patients every morning and it’s replenished throughout the day. Once our list has been done for lunch and for tea we proceed to serve 10:00am mid-morning tea to our patients with the offer of a biscuit. At this time we would be due 15 minute break for a cup of tea ourselves as our mornings can be quite busy.

On returning to our pantry we check that our trays are properly set for lunch as we serve homemade soup at 11:30am before our lunch trolleys have to be collected from the main kitchen at 12:30pm.

After lunch we have a break of about 45 minutes where I meet up with some of the other girls and it’s a chance just to get away from the ward. After lunch we go back to the ward where a lot of changes may have taken place, some patients might have been discharged, new patients may have arrived, people who may have been fasting may now need a cup of tea and a slice of toast after their procedure so we must be brought up to speed on the status of patients in the ward.

At this time we start preparing the trolley to serve afternoon tea at 3:00pm and we always get some freshly baked cake from the main kitchen which is a nice treat! And of course we always have our reliable biscuit on hand as well. Some days can be actually quite hard as we keep putting on and taking off our PPE gowns, gloves and masks. It can get very warm and very exhausting!

It can be very difficult if a patient has passed away, before COVID-19 we would offer the family our condolences and make them a cup of tea but as visitors are not allowed it can be very sad. A very clear sign of the times that we are currently living in.

Once again, it is now time to go to the main kitchen to collect our trolley containing our patients tea. After this is served and we have collected the patient’s trays, we say good night to the patients.

It is now time once again to clean up and sanitise everywhere and make sure everything is ready for my colleagues the next morning.

Before I leave the hospital, I change into my normal clothes and put my uniform into a bag to be brought home to be washed at a high temperature.

The Catering Department always wore aprons and gloves but since COVID-19 a lot has changed .We now have to wear PPE gowns, aprons, gloves and a face mask and sometimes goggles when going into a room with a COVID_19 positive patient. While wearing all of our PPE,we find that we cannot linger too much on the wards as we are trying not to pick up anything and carry it with us. Our conversation is now short with patients but we try our best to chat as visitors are not allowed.

The Catering Department has a vital part to play when it comes to patient care as we hope to meet all their nutritional needs as part of their recovery.

I would like to thank the public for staying home at this difficult time and social distancing. We need to listen as a country so we can get through this and get back to some normality.

Thank you