PORTSMOUTH, VA, UNITED STATES
Story by Seaman Ariana Torman
PORTSMOUTH, Va. (July 6, 2020) – Naval Medical Center Portsmouth’s (NMCP) Nutrition Management Department, also known as the galley, is implementing an innovative system for heating, chilling and distributing meals to patients beginning July 6. NMCP’s new heat and chill carts will be used to ensure that patient meals are high-quality and consistent.
The leadership of NMCP’s nutrition management department found that with these improved carts they could better maintain the temperature of the hot and cold meals being served to patients.
“The previous carts that we used were outdated and this is a way for us to improve our operations,” said Culinary Specialist 1st Class Whitney Arce, the team lead for NMCP’s meal service innovation project.
Before the system could be implemented, though, the galley crew and diet clerks had to train and adapt to this new way of delivering meals.”
They conducted several operational trainings, using mock patients, and tested the process to make sure that proper temperatures were maintained when delivering meals.
“With these new carts, hot and cold foods are kept in separate sections,” said Lt. Sara Steenburn, assistant department head of NMCP’s Nutrition Management Department. “Before loading in the trays, the cart must be plugged in and go through a preheat cycle in preparation to transport meals.”
The hot side reaches approximately 248 degrees Fahrenheit and the cold side is chilled to approximately 33 degrees Fahrenheit.
“This is done in advance so that once trays are loaded onto the cart, the proper temperature is maintained from that point until the food reaches the patient,” said Steenburn.
After loading the trays, the cart goes through a boost cycle that ensures proper food temperatures are maintained during transportation. Once the cart reaches its destination, the hot side will remain heated for 1-5 minutes after opening the doors. The meal trays will be slightly warm to the touch but will be cool upon delivery to patients.
Steenburn says that she and her team in the nutrition management department identified this innovation and are excited to be improving NMCP’s in-patient meal service process from a safety and quality standpoint.
“We always have the health and safety of our patients at the forefront,” said Steenburn. “Many of our patients have compromised immune systems so we want to make sure that we are upholding the highest standards of food safety and patient satisfaction.”
The July 6th implementation of this new system was limited and was one of several scheduled test runs of the carts. Once the trials have been successfully completed, the carts will be used for in-patient meal distribution throughout the hospital.
As the U.S. Navy’s oldest, continuously-operating military hospital since 1830, Naval Medical Center Portsmouth proudly serves past and present military members and their families. The nationally-acclaimed, state-of-the-art medical center, along with the area’s 10 branch health and TRICARE Prime Clinics, provide care for the Hampton Roads area. The medical center also supports premier research and teaching programs designed to prepare new doctors, nurses and hospital corpsman for future roles in healing and wellness.