Updated: Apr 5
By: Ashley Strehl - Managing Editor of Digital and Print Publications
One hundred and eighty residents, 180 meals, and three meals a day. With five dietary team members at Skyview Nursing Center, and seven at Oak Hills Care Center and Edmond Health Care Center, the dietary teams of Voyage Long Term Care are cooking up nothing but consistently perfect dietitian audit scores, and delicious meals in their kitchens for their residents.
Once a month, Registered Dietitian (RD), Abby Yeary, visits the three properties to perform an audit within each kitchen. For each audit, Yeary follows a state regulated check list that requires her to examine 112 distinct aspects of the kitchen and dietary department, and determine if those aspects are acceptable, unacceptable, or need improvement, and there are separate reports for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
The audit check list includes aspects such as the quality of the floors, walls, ceilings, and light fixtures in and around storage areas, refrigerators, and freezer containers. It also includes a check on the quality of the kitchen equipment, such as ovens, toasters, mixers, utensils, dishes, sinks, and ice machines.
The food preparation process is also examined by whether foods are thawed properly and dated, reheated to correct temperatures, prepared according to the recipes, and whether preparation surfaces are sanitized properly, and fresh produce is washed before use.
Lastly, Yeary will assess the employee's diligence of following proper sanitation protocols, such as proper hand washing measures, use of hair and beard nets, gloves, and mask use. In order for long-term care communities like those under Voyage Long-Term Care to continue to receive Medicaid funding, certain perimeters must be met in each audit. “Audits help prepare the kitchens for state surveys by making sure they are compliant to meet state regulations,” Yeary said. “RD's play an integral role in maintaining the optimal standard of care for people in long-term care; not only do RD's have specialized knowledge for the nutrition needs of many disease states and allergies, but we also play a role in food preparation and menu planning, counseling patients, and administering therapeutic diets.”
Since October of 2021, all three dietary teams have received a perfect 100 on all their audits. Which means that they are following and exceeding in all state regulated long-term care dietary guidelines and protocols properly while preparing meals for residents.
So, how do they do it?
Dietary Manager at Skyview Nursing Center, Verna Wheat, or ‘Miss Verna,’ as the residents and her fellow team members at Skyview like to call her, says that with a background in the military, she is somewhat of a perfectionist when it comes to leading a team. “I stay on my staff,” Wheat said. “I make sure we work together as a team to keep our kitchen clean at all times, and follow the rules and regulations set by the state. I have a great team here, and we enjoy working together."
Wheat began her career in dietary management within long-term care settings in 2002 as a cook, and later went on to get the education and training to become a licensed dietary manager. She was hired as the Dietary Manager at Skyview Nursing Center in July of 2021.
With several years of cooking experience and a military background, Wheat’s qualities of leadership helped her to stand out as a solid candidate for the position of Dietary Manager at Skyview. “We only want the best when it comes to management positions within our company,” Voyage Long Term Care COO, Kip McElwee said. “Miss Verna, Sharita [Dietary Manager at Oak Hills Care Center], and Jodi [Dietary Manager at Edmond Health Care Center], are strong and integrative leaders. I am incredibly proud of their dilegence. I believe their qualities of leadership, and their teams’ hard work in following their lead, is a lot of what we have to thank for the perfect dietitian scores that we have been receiving. I am incredibly proud of all of them, and I try to brag on them as much as I can.”
Sharita McFee of Oak Hills Care Center says that she tries to lead her kitchen team by being more "hands-on." "I will usually spend my afternoons observing the team while we are preparing meals to ensure they are following the proper protocols and guidelines," McFee said, "This way, I put myself in a position to help and direct them in the right direction if needed."
Wheat says that she believes her team at Skyview Nursing Center will continue to be successful throughout the year as long as they stay on mission.
“What we do is a service, and it’s also a ministry,” Wheat said. “We will continue to improve on the betterment of our service. We provide a service to the residents to make them happy. If they’re happy and healthy, then that makes us happy.”