There are a lot of jobs that you could pursue in the healthcare field and specifically in a hospital. One of these jobs you might wish to think about is a dietary clerk or dietary aide, these are the people who prepare and cook the food that is served to the patients every day. I began working in a hospital as a dietary clerk when I was 16 and did not leave that job for three years and during that time I learned a lot of different aspects of diet and nutrition. Although most people can do this job without too much trouble here are three qualities or skills you will need if you want to work as a dietary clerk in a hospital based on my own personal experience in that department.
- As with a lot of jobs you might wish to pursue in your life you will need to be really good at math to become a dietary clerk in the hospital. Math skills are essential in basically every job to a certain extent but you will need to make sure that you have math skills that are precise and correct since you are directly involved with patient care. The reason why math is so essential is because there are a lot of dietary restrictions and needs of those patients in the hospital and some of them might be diabetic or on a specific calorie count. Diabetic patients are allowed only a certain number of proteins, sugars and fat each day so you have to add up the amount given to that patient for each meal and write it on their menu. For example, you might have a patient on an 1800 calorie diabetic diet so you have to divide up this up into 600 calories for each meal and then add in the small diabetic snack they are served in the evening as well. Some patients might just be on a restricted calorie count because of a medical condition such as congestive heart failure and it is your responsibility to make sure they do not exceed the amount of calories allotted for them in each meal. Not to mention that you have to make a menu for each patient in the hospital so you need to be able to calculate how many people are on each floor, which patients get food and so much more so that you know you have enough food for everyone in the hospital. A lot of the math can be done on a computer or calculator so it is not like you have to do it all in your head but you at least need to know how to calculate it on your own if needed.
- As a dietary clerk you also need to be very responsible and complete each task as required, meaning you always need to be attentive and giving 100% all the time. A patient relies on you for a lot of things but especially when it comes to their nutrition and dietary needs. You need to always be aware of a patient and their specific needs because sometimes they might not know they were put on a special diet and cannot have certain foods. You should always be attentive because sometimes a doctor or nurse will change the dietary orders of a patient after you already delivered them a meal. This requires you to know which patients have changes in their dietary needs and requirements so that they do not get the wrong meal and this is especially important if you work on the surgical floor. People will change diets very quickly on the surgical floor because some of them are going into surgery or coming out of surgery so they might be on a liquid diet or they might not be able to have anything at all if they were going into surgery soon. You might not think that a dietary clerk is a big job but in reality the food that you present to a patient can significantly hurt them or mess up their bodies if they are undergoing a certain medical procedure. If you have a patient that is going into emergency surgery in a couple hours and they are not allowed to eat and you give them the tray then this makes you responsible for them and the possible cancellation of their surgery if they eat. Printing off new patient sheets right before you begin your meal deliveries is essential so that you can get the most accurate information possible which can help cut down on these types of errors, although you still need to pay attention when entering a room because this information might have already changed.
- As a dietary clerk it is also essential that you have good personal hygiene and you come to work every day clean and in good health. Just like with a lot of other jobs where you handle and prepare food, it is essential that you come to work clean and freshly showered and also that you practice good hygiene such as washing your hands after you go to the bathroom. You should make sure that your hair is pulled back in a ponytail if it is shoulder-length or longer so that you do not get hair in the food of a patient regardless of whether you are preparing the food or just delivering the food. Any time you touch your face, nose, mouth or any other body part you also need to wash your hands or for that matter, wash your hands before you touch any of the food all the time. You will also need to make sure that you do not sneeze, cough or eject any other bodily fluids out when you are near food and sometimes this means you will need to put your face into your armpit if you need to cough or sneeze. It is essential that you practice good hygiene at all times because you are working in a hospital where people are sick and their immune systems are compromised. This means that their body cannot fight off simple infections as easily as a healthy person and even a simple cold can turn into them getting really sick or even could prove fatal. It is important that you look like you take good care of yourself on the inside and out and this includes not wearing a lot of jewelry or having visible piercings or tattoos. If you do not feel well and are sick or have a fever then you should not report to work and tell your supervisor as soon as possible so they can find someone to replace you for that shift. Working in a hospital often means you will eventually catch something from a patient but you should not go to work and spread this around to other sick people you come into contact with. What it really comes down to is just basic common sense when it comes to working with food and the sick, especially since a lot of patients are older and more susceptible to infection and disease.
As you can see working in a hospital as a dietary clerk requires having specific skills and qualities in order to ensure the safety and health of you and the patients you work with on a regular basis. If you have these skills then you will be more likely to advance in the dietary department because you show that you are responsible and are accountable for your own actions, which directly affect patients in many different ways. Based on my three years working as a dietary clerk in a hospital I can tell you that if you can effectively use these skills and qualities then you will be more prepared for other jobs in the healthcare field.
Myself, Personal Experience