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Behind the scenes

Varied tasks play part in delivering safe, effective care

Nurses and other clinical staff tend to be the most visible faces in a hospital, on the frontlines of care, connecting directly and often with patients and their families. But an army of other staff members plays a critical role in keeping the operation running 24/7 in a safe, effective, and warm fashion.


Janice Harrell, Director of Nutrition Services

“I think people would be surprised by
the number of hands required to create
the good, healthy food that serves the
community . . .”

Janice Harrell, Director of Nutrition

These are the people who plan, prepare, and deliver nutritionally balanced meals; clean the hospital to exacting standards, from patient rooms to waiting areas; move patients expertly from one place to another; and perform a range of other jobs that complete the network of care.

“Though our patients may not always be aware of their presence,” says Dr. Steven Packer, president and CEO of Community Hospital, “everyone on our work force has a distinct job that may touch the patient in some way.

Anyone, for example, who has been served “breakfast in bed” or who has brought guests to lunch or grabbed a snack on the go at the Fountain Court Café has likely become aware of the food service at Community Hospital. Yet many probably don’t know much about the realm of Nutrition Services.

The department provides more than 1 million meals a year, with a staff of more than 100 full-time or part-time workers.

“I think people would be surprised,” says Janice Harrell, clinical dietitian and director of Nutrition Services, “by the number of hands required to create the good, healthy food that serves the community or matches the physicians’ prescriptions for our patients. And it gets there hot and tasty, delivered by a smiling face.”

Nutrition Services relies on registered dietitians, a menu-writing team, taste-testers, cooks, and the head chef to prepare food for patients, the Fountain Court Café, staff cafeteria, and in-house catering for special events, plus meals for the patients and staff at Westland House.

“Our greatest challenge,” says chef Lance Chambers, “is addressing all the patient diets. Whether they require regular, low-sodium, or allergy-safe menus, we make sure to meet all nutritional needs.” 

A patient’s doctor starts the process by ordering the patient’s diet restrictions by computer. Then Nutrition Services matches the patient’s food preferences with the doctor’s dietary prescription.“

We ensure that just the right food prescription is sent on every patient tray, using a computer system to avoid foods or beverages that may contain too much of a particular nutrient or something to which the patient is allergic,” Harrell says. “It’s very similar to going to the pharmacy to get your medication. Food is like a drug in the sense that receiving the wrong foods or dietary prescription can hurt you, and receiving the correct, nutritious foods will help you.”

The food is delivered to patients by “traypassers,” servers who get fresh, hot food from the kitchen to the private rooms of as many as 205 patients three times a day.

“Our traypassers wear tuxedo shirts, so they look like high-end wait staff,” says Harrell. “Some hospitals have a premier floor for patients with celebrity status, who receive a higher caliber of service. At Community Hospital, we treat everybody exactly the same; everyone  is provided with excellent service.”

The traypassers traverse the hospital multiple times a day, often crossing paths with another well-traveled group — the transporters.


Al BettencourtAl Bettencourt

assistant director of Security Services and supervisor of the transporters

“Besides transporting patients from point A to point B, transporters want to make people feel comfortable. They introduce themselves to patients and let them know who they are, what they are doing, where they are going.”

Men in perpetual motion, the transporters each cover 15 to 18 miles per day. Their job is to lift and transport patients throughout the hospital, a job that requires a combination of careful training, strength, and sensitivity. “In hiring transporters,” says Al Bettencourt, assistant director of Security Services and supervisor of the transporters, “we look for people who are physically fit and have excellent customer-service skills. A healthcare background is nice but not necessary. They take classes in proper body mechanics, CPR, and infection control, then they job-shadow another transporter. Once trained, they function on their own, responding to the needs of the nursing staff or anyone calling for help lifting, turning, or transporting a patient.”

Community Hospital transporters, says Bettencourt, have a good bedside manner. They are customer-service driven and have an inherent desire to help people.

“Besides transporting patients from point A to point B,” says Bettencourt, “transporters want to make people feel comfortable. They introduce themselves to patients and let them know who they are, what they are doing, where they are going.”

Community Hospital employs 15 transporters in shifts staggered throughout the day and night. About every 30 minutes, another transporter comes on duty, and each works an eight-hour shift. On an average day, each will make 20 to 30 transports.“

We never want to rush,” says Bettencourt. “Everything is calculated and careful and about patient comfort.”


Raul Lopez“Everyone’s job has an impact on
how a patient is going to recover.”

-Raul Lopez,  director of
Environmental Services

Wherever the transporters go, the Environmental Services department has already been, and will be again. EVS, as it’s known, has about 100 employees. They are all responsible for creating a safe, clean, comfortable, and aesthetically pleasing environment.

“The title of our department is appropriate,” says Raul Lopez, director of EVS, “in that we are responsible for the environment as soon as you walk through the doors of the hospital, which encompasses more than 600,000 square feet. Whether it is a patient, family member, or employee, everyone who walks in should experience the same level of cleanliness and comfort.”

The department supports clinical and nonclinical areas, ensuring clean common areas and a germ-free healing environment in patient rooms.  

“Around the Fountain Court, where visitors and staff congregate,” says Lopez, “we shampoo the carpet and vacuum and buff the floors. But in the clinical settings, the patient rooms, Emergency department, Family Birth Center, and the nursery’s surgical suites, we employ a very intense cleaning process with exacting standards.”

Community Hospital
By the numbers 2009


Community Hospital 11,308

Westland House


Emergency visits

Outpatient visits




The cleaning of clinical spaces involves using a high-grade disinfectant to wash the walls and every piece of equipment — an extremely detail-oriented and time-consuming process, Lopez says.

“Before coming to Community Hospital, my entire background was in the hospitality industry, where guidelines were very different,” he says. “If we weren’t up to standards, we might get a guest complaint. Here at the hospital, we don’t have that margin of error. Here, not doing our job correctly could have dire effects. We don’t risk that.”

The secondary role of Environmental Services, says Lopez, is to ensure a comfortable, aesthetically pleasing environment, which he believes has a direct impact on healing and recovery.“Sometimes new staff members have the feeling that we are 'just housekeeping,’ ” he says. “But they learn we’re much more than that. Whether it is a floor that is being swept or a room being cleaned for the next patient, each and every step we do has a direct impact on how patients, staff, and visitors feel about Community Hospital.”

“It’s also about care,” Lopez says. “Everyone at this hospital, from nursing to Security to Environmental Services, plays a significant role in the care of patients. Everyone’s job has an impact on how a patient is going to recover.

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