A consulting dietitian is somewhat of a jack of all trades. Beyond having a full circle knowledge of clinical nutrition, sanitation and food safety policies, dietitians must also have strong relational skills to see true progress in their facilities. You might think its possible to do this job simply by going in, getting the work done and leaving with little to no interaction with the staff. That’s possible, but not what’s best for our residents or the facility. The secret to success for both yourself and your facility (s) is in the relationships.
Relationships are a tricky thing. They take time. It takes getting to know another person and making them feel heard, understood and cared for. Genuinely. This may seem a little mushy gushy for the workplace but the underlying concept isn’t. Relationship development builds trust and trust is the bridge to better communication. And let me tell you, communication is the key to EVERYTHING. So who do you need to develop a relationship with in your facilities? And furthermore, how do you do that when you are on site minimal amounts of time per week? Let’s dive in.
Who it’s important to build a relationship with at your facilities is as follows: DON/ADON, RNs, CNAs, CDM, Cooks/Aids. I know this seems like a lot of people, but let me explain why I suggest this.
-DON/ADON: They are the captains. They have a lot of pull. The DON/ADON can and will help you get information that you need if they like and trust the work you are doing. You want to be on the same team.
-RNs: They are in charge of communicating which weights need to be done and following up to ensure they were completed. In some cases they are even the ones that have to log the weights into the EMR. If the RNs like you, understand you are more than the “weight police” and care about the residents as much as they do they will help your cause. They will want to help you succeed at your job.
CNAs: This population, I believe, is one of the most important groups on the clinical side to develop relationships with. They are the ones responsible for getting your weights and reweights. And we all know we CANNOT do our job without this information. You want these people to like you, trust you and again, want to help you do your job well.
CDM: This is the most important person to develop a relationship with on the foodservice side. This person is responsible for getting you all of the information you need, for ordering, menu writing, applying recommendations, MDSs, and so much more. With a strong relationship, a CDM and RD can make a lot of positive change for a facility. But it’s important that they feel as if the relationship is one between two equals and not one between a superior and inferior.
Cooks/Aides: Consulting dietitians can sometimes feel not only like the weight police, but the cleanliness police as well. With monthly audits being done and recommendations being given, success in this area depends on whether or not the cooks/aides follow the guidelines/rules while you are away and follow them consistently. They are more likely to adhere to the rules of sanitation and food safety if they respect you as a leader and feel cared for.
Now for the how…how to get this done, with a limited amount of time available. Here are 2 quick tips to start building better relationships:
-Remember names: This one is simple. Remember the names of the staff and call them by name each time you are on site.
-Listen and ask:Listen to what is talked about during the down time (the minutes before morning meeting and/or weight meeting, at the nurses station, while CNAs are passing out trays, etc.). This does not have to seem sketchy or like you are eavesdropping. It simply means paying attention and listening to your surroundings. This is a great way to learn about your fellow staff members. Then, follow up, maybe the following week and ask them a personal question. Something that says, “I care about your life and how it is going.”
Implementing these small steps will not only help you professionally, but will help you on a personal level as well. Enjoying and trusting those you work with allows you to find more joy in your work day. Here’s to more joy!