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Christine Vansanten and Maggie da Silva Porta

Bringing a taste of home to AHS sites across the province

“Spending time with residents is very rewarding and one of the best parts of my job.”

The Patient Food Services team at Alberta Health Services (AHS) supports the recovery and health of patients and residents by providing nutritious meals. More than 30,000 meals are served to patients and residents each day. That’s almost 11 million meals in a year!

However, food is more than a meal; memories and sometimes strong emotions are attached to it. Maggie da Silva Porter, a Patient Food Services Supervisor at the Foothills Medical Centre in Calgary, recalls a young patient requesting ‘Oma’s apple pie’. For patients and residents, sometimes being able to get a taste of home makes them feel a bit better. While not all requests can be fulfilled, supervisors listen carefully to patient and resident preferences and do their best to make it possible.

For Christine Vansanten, Patient Food Services Supervisor for the Athabasca and Lac La Biche Health Centres, “Spending time with residents is very rewarding and one of the best parts of my job,” she says. “Remembering particular likes and dislikes allows us to give a more personal touch and it really makes a difference.”

The Patient Food Services supervisor role requires both direct and indirect contact with patients and residents.

“We are involved in every aspect that it takes to get food to the patient,” says da Silva Porter.

“We oversee everything from preparing and delivering meals, to the dishroom and everything in between.”

A great team is required to make this happen and the ability to lead that team is essential.

“A supervisor has to be an effective communicator and able to handle multiple priorities,” says Kari Schafer, Director of Nutrition and Food Services in the South Zone. “From managing staff needs to dealing with health and safety initiatives, to handling menu changes and the complexity of a variety of allergies and diets - no two days are the same. The ability to switch gears quickly is important.”

To be successful in this role Schafer says planning ahead and being able to reprioritize your day to handle something unexpected is essential. “It’s important to ensure that we serve high quality food and recognize that every job matters. This role has a big impact on our patients, residents and frontline staff.”

Patient Food Services provides meals to residents and patients in 106 sites across the province giving supervisors the opportunity to work at large and small sites alike.

“At a larger site more time is spent on operations, ensuring the team has the appropriate resources to succeed,” says da Silva Porter. “Hiring and training is also a big focus because of the large team required to meet the needs of the patients.”

For Vansanten, working rurally offers the opportunity to work at multiple sites. “No two sites are the same and it keeps things interesting,” she says. “As there are fewer beds at the rural sites, my position has more of a frontline aspect to it. I am able to participate in site meetings and engage with the staff, patients and residents. I really enjoy having that opportunity.”

“Whether working at a rural or an urban site, work-life balance is very much a part of the role. “This job has given me more time to spend with my family and that’s important to me,” says Vansanten.

“Supervisors serve as influential role models for AHS, creating a healthy, engaged and high-performing workforce – this reflects positively in our meal service and relationships with the patients, residents and entire care team,” says Schafer.

What’s the best advice you would give someone considering a career as a Patient Food Service Supervisor?

“You don’t need to know everything right now, you will learn every day,” says da Silva Porter. “Focus on your team and give them the resources they need to be successful.”

AHS employs approximately 132 Patient Food Services supervisors across the province. For more information about this role and qualifications, please see the job profile.