Diet Tech Diaries: My Favorite Patients

Originally posted 4/11/19

Hello!

Obviously, I'm referencing real patients, so I've changed identifying details about them to protect their private health information. The heart of the story is here, just not the exact details. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are my own and do not reflect those of Children’s Minnesota. 

Working at Children's has taught me a lot about clinical nutrition, given me a healthy dose of customer service experience, and even made me brush up on my math skills. Because a good chunk of my job involves answering room service calls, I talk to patients and parents from all over the hospital.

I love getting to know the patients and their parents, even through short, superficial room service calls. Once I had a patient, a young toddler, insist upon ordering his own food over the phone. His mother "helped" him order, by telling him (and me) each item. Our conversation went something like this.

ME: What would you like?

MOM: Tell her you want broccoli.

HIM: BAH-KLEE!!!

MOM: And that you want some french fries with ketchup.

HIM: KETCHUP!!!

ME: *giggling*

MOM: *giggling*

Though not every patient is as energetic as that little boy, I've had so many of these joyful interactions with patients. Some kids are in the hospital for long periods of time and I come to know their orders by heart, and they are as individual as the kids themselves. One teen, for example, frequently orders ingredients to make a DIY frappuccino: 1 coffee, 3 sugars, 2 chocolate ice creams. Or the young patient who knows his order by heart and can say it all in one breath, very quickly. (It's a good thing I have his order memorized, because he often speaks too quickly for me to understand!)

My favorite patient is one I've gotten to know over the past several months. They are a teen with a chronic illness, and they've been in and out of the hospital several times since I began working last summer. This patient first became memorable to me because of what they order for dinner: a grilled turkey and cheddar cheese sandwich.

This isn't really all that unique of an order, but for whatever reason, it stuck in my head the first time they ordered it. On my next shift, they called room service again, and I jokingly asked if they wanted the same thing as before.

The patient was very pleased to have been remembered. I worked multiple evenings in a row, and each night they would call, we would say hello, and I would offer what I could now safely assume was their favorite sandwich. It wasn't always what they wanted to eat that night, but it laid down the foundation for them quickly becoming my "favorite" patient.

When they were discharged, I was happy, obviously, that they were well enough to go home. But a little part of me was disappointed--the little interactions I'd become used to were now put on hold while my patient remained well enough to be out of the hospital and living their own life. Now, when I see their name pop up on my screen, I'm again disappointed, because that means that they're back in the hospital, likely in pain or not feeling well. But there's a little part of me that's excited, too, because they are my favorite patient. Complicated, I know.

I've never met this patient in person; I don't know what they look like, or anything about them, other than their favorite sandwich. But getting to know them, as well as so many of the other patients here, and being such a tiny part of their care experience has been amazing. There are SO many people involved in the health-care process, and everyone from the doctors to the diet techs to the nursing assistants to the people who work in the gift-shop and those that empty the trashes have important roles to play. Kids are pretty darn special, and I feel very lucky to be one of the people that gets to take care of them.