LANDSTUHL, Germany — A grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup.
For U.S. Air Force Tech Sgt. Nataliya Hampton, noncommissioned officer in charge of Medical Nutrition Therapy at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, this is the meal that changed her perspective on the impact nutrition can have in patient care.
Hampton, a nutrition therapy technician with the 86th Medical Squadron, 86th Medical Group, was recently named the Air Forces’ Nutrition Therapy Noncommissioned Officer of the Year for 2019. Originally enlisting in the Air Force to help pay for college, Hampton was slated to work as an aircraft loadmaster, but a delay in training redirected her toward the medical nutrition field. Eleven years later, Hampton still maintains a passion for interacting with patients, something she accredits to her Airmen, Soldiers and leaders.
“(Nutrition therapy) turned into something where I became passionate about helping people,” said Hampton, a native of Novovolynsk, Ukraine. “I was honestly really excited about (being recognized as top in her field), at the same time very thankful for having my Airmen who helped me stay motivated, which allowed me to be successful. But I am very thankful for this job.”
When Hampton first arrived at LRMC, she was responsible for fiscal management and informatics in the Nutrition Care Division, eventually moving to where her passion lies, inpatient nutrition and leading approximately 57 Soldiers, Airmen, civilians and local nationals.
“If anyone’s at nutrition risk, we have a system in place for standards and procedures detailing how to follow up with patients to make sure they’re getting the proper care with a registered dietician,” said Hampton. “People don’t think about how important food is until food isn’t readily available and that’s nutrition.”
While every inpatient doesn’t require nutrition therapy, an admission screening helps determine any need for care such as special diets, deficiencies or malnourishment.
“Over time with the patient interactions on the floors, and doing follow ups with them, it gave me a sense of pride,” said Hampton. “ I enjoy helping individuals get better through something as simple as nutrition.”
As a junior Airman, Hampton’s experience with a patient who refused to eat changed her outlook on her duties and the impact she can have on patients.
“Because I visited (the patient) on a daily basis, and discussed what foods to eat, it allowed (the patient) to see that someone showed interest. Then (the patient) did start eating and I still remember it was a grilled cheese sandwich and tomato soup,” said Hampton. “That was the first time the patient ate in three weeks.”
Hampton’s impact extends to more than just her patients.
“Hampton is just an amazing NCO to work with,” said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Heidi Worley, chief, Medical Nutrition Therapy at LRMC. “She knows her job, does it well, and leads by example. We’re an awesome melting pot of a section thanks to her.”
Hampton’s appetite for nourishment doesn’t stop at work, as she provides healthy options for her three-year-old son and mother who resides with her.
“I pay attention to what he eats,” said Hampton. “Sometimes I wish he would eat a little bit more because I miss his little chubby cheeks but he’s a perfectly healthy boy.”
Meal preparation at home is a favorite for Hampton’s mom as she takes full advantage of the fully-cooked meals Hampton concocts.
“You sometimes don’t realize the impact you’re having on people’s lives,” said Hampton. “When you’re doing it, you’re not thinking that’s what it is. You’re thinking it’s just your job, but you’re changing people’s lives.”
LRMC’s Nutrition Care Division provides world class comprehensive nutrition services through medical nutrition therapy, high quality meals, health promotion and consultation on nutrition related health and performance issues in support of the joint warfighter. Landstuhl Regional Medical Center is the only forward-stationed medical center for U.S. & Coalition forces and others, serving more than 205,000 beneficiaries throughout Europe, the Middle East and Africa.