Fall 2017

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4 2 | PULSE Fa l l 2 0 1 7 F ocused and flexible—as director of food and nutrition services for Torrance Memorial Medical Center, that's what Johanna Johnson-Gilman has to be. Overseeing six managers, 140 staff and all hospital food services, retail cafes, catering and financial operations, plus ensuring top-notch food safety and patient safety, means there's never a dull moment. "ere's no such thing as a typical day. e one constant is that I whittle each day down to the essential priorities and try to stay focused on those," Johnson-Gilman says. For five years, Johnson-Gilman has started her day (some begin as early as 5 a.m.) doing "rounds"—checking in on her team and ensuring all areas are fully operational, getting up to speed on any immediate, unplanned needs and learning the daily patient census. "Our business increases as our patient population increases," she says. A handful of meetings, catering assistance, maintaining and documenting regulatory compliance, and communication with dietitians who perform patient dietetic evaluations and track their nutritional status, can round out the day. "Our staff is hardworking , industrious and resilient, and they have taught me so much," she says proudly. "I feel really fortunate to be at this hospital, where the leadership and the focus on the patient are both outstanding." at her career path led to the health care food service industry seems fitting. "I've always loved to cook. As a kid, I was usually right next to my mom in the kitchen—her little helper." Johnson-Gilman earned a degree in community health education and got a certification in nutrition and dietetics. But even before that, working with patients had called to her. A critical head injury when she was growing up landed her in serious condition in the hospital, and brain surgery ensued. It was a scary time. "I learned early on how important empathy and the need to be nurtured are for patients and families in the hospital," Johnson-Gilman recalls, "and years later, I knew I wanted to do something meaningful with my experience." Her job provides her the best of both worlds: food and customer service in a health care setting. In fact, it's the customer service aspect of her job that gives her much satisfaction. "It's a bit of a lost art in today's society. Technolog y has led to our losing some sense of relating to people. Providing good customer service in a patient environment is enjoyable, because you can see how much your day-to-day work impacts a person's life." And nationwide, she adds, hospitals are focusing more on the patient experience. "It's about, 'How do we make the patient's stay less like a hospital and more like an experience in a hotel?' When you focus on this, it guides everything else." Good-tasting food matters, too, as anyone who's stayed in the hospital knows. "Hospital food absolutely has a reputation of being bland as cardboard," she says. "But in general, the trend is about taking it to a new level." Torrance Memorial is embracing this trend. Its chefs are highly trained—executive chef Sam Sellona trained at the Culinary Institute of America, Johnson-Gilman points out, noting that, "You may get an orchid on your breakfast plate!" A greater emphasis is being placed on food quality to maximize taste, texture and overall prep methods, as well as healthy options with flavor profiles that are customized based on community or region of the country. Early next year, the hospital will offer patients its new "At Your Request" room service. When admitted, they will receive a menu and can select what they want to eat, or they can call on the spot and place an order, and within 45 minutes their meal will be delivered. e hospital is working on finishing a new kitchen to accommodate this service. "e idea that a patient can eat what they want, when they want and with their family, offers a huge amount of control," Johnson-Gilman explains. "ere are so many things patients don't have control over, so if they can control their meals, we want them to be able to." Once she's home with her family at the end of each day, Johnson- Gilman doesn't stray far from food service. "I'm constantly menu planning. e same skills are required whether it's prepping to serve a patient population of 300 or a family of four." Focused and flexible—notable qualities in a busy mom, too. H E A RT B E AT S EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED THIS MANTRA KEEPS JOHANNA JOHNSON-GILMAN FOCUSED, YET FLEXIBLE WRITTEN BY KRISTIN REYNOLDS PHOTOGRAPHED BY LAUREN PRESSEY

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