Stephanie Giraulo, St. Charles Hospital, Port Jefferson, NY

Stephanie Giraulo

Stephanie Giraulo began working in St. Charles Hospital as a volunteer in the kitchen at fourteen years old and never left. Even at that age she “soon discovered that she loved this type of work”. Now she is the Director of Nutritional Services at the same hospital she started in, having held the position for twelve years. It is rare these days to find people so passionate about what they do, especially for twenty five years at the same institution. Ms. Giraulo gave us some insight into what goes on under her watch at St. Charles, how the industry is evolving and what her patients are looking for in hospital dining in 2016.

Stephanie, how did you get into the healthcare service industry?

I became a volunteer at St. Charles Hospital when I was 14 years old. Little did I know that at that time I was actually beginning my career path!  I was placed in the kitchen and soon discovered that I loved this type of work. A few years later, a nutritional services aide position was opened and I was hired. I worked as a lead aide right through high school, a position that helped me decide my future was in the industry.

What was the career path you took to being the Director of Nutrition Services?

I maintained my lead aide position right through college. Upon graduation, I completed my dietetic internship, after which I was immediately hired as a dietitian at St. Charles. I began working as a registered Dietitian, a position I held for three years until I was promoted to Chief Clinical Dietitian. Two years later, I was offered the director’s position and I have remained in that role for 12 years.

How have the dining needs of your patients evolved?

My introduction to “hospital food” began when I was a 14 year old volunteer. The food epitomized “hospital food”. It was known as the “green jello” stigma! When patients began to ask for healthier options we transitioned to fresh foods.

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In 2008, to spearhead the Room Service Program we brought in Bill Dougherty, a Certified Executive Chef. His first step was to improve the food in the Employee Cafeteria, providing healthy and fresh cuisine. Chef Bill then turned his attention to our patients. We went live on June 10, 2008 and patients were thrilled with the food selections and freshness. In one quarter our patient satisfaction scores soared from the 61st percentile to the 99th percentile. We have remained over the 96th percentile since the inception of the program.

What is your approach to building your team?

First and foremost, respect. I believe respect builds trust and when there is trust among staff they are there for one another, in good times and bad. Our staff get along very very well. They truly believe in the team concept. I now hire nutritional services aides for attitude rather than knowledge. I look for enthusiastic candidates who want to make a difference and be part of a successful team.

What type of employees succeed in your culture?

Customer service and patient satisfaction are the most important aspects of food service. Those who succeed understand that and make it a priority. For our staff, perhaps the greatest mark of success is the fact that our team members are known throughout the hospital by name! Its thrilling to be part of such a successful program.

On a management level, there is great respect among my peers and in many cases a true friendship which allows us to “make things happen” when it comes to serving our patients.

I am amazed at the breadth of responsibility your department now has beyond just food. What else falls under your managerial umbrella?

In addition to the food service staff I oversee the clinical dietitians and our Terrace Cafe, the hospital’s profitable retail operation. I am also deeply involved in the hospital’s population health program. We have outreach events geared at improving the community’s knowledge for the purpose of living healthier lifestyles.

Additionally I am on the hospitals iPearl (Improve Patient Engagement by Active Rounding of Leadership) team. Each morning hospital administrators are assigned a patient who was admitted the previous day. We follow that patient as a patient advocate through the length of their stay. The program has allowed me to go back to my roots, to be by the bedside with our patients.

I am always curious how a healthcare facility’s foodservice, nutrition and dieticians all work together. What makes for a successful operation?

Great food makes everyone happy! Our dietitians receive great feedback about our food and are always proud of our staff. The pride has fostered a friendship between the two groups.

Additionally every two months we celebrate the birthdays of everyone in the department. This is a great way for the food service and clinical staff to come together and to spend a few minutes talking and getting to know each other.

There is a tremendous pressure in foodservice to serve local and farm to table. Is this realistic in your environment?

When in season we source as much as we can from local, reputable farms and fishermen through our prime vendors. We regularly adjust our menu cycles to reflect seasonal availability while consistently providing on-trend cuisine.

What role do your food and beverage vendors play in your success and how do you find vendors?

The vendors are an important partner for the hospital. They are called upon by the system’s supply chain to assist in procuring quality products at a reasonable price. Catholic Health Services Supply Chain constantly seeks vendors that will provide us with exceptional service, great quality and a reasonable price.

Are there any recently completed renovations or plans for the future?

A few years ago we renovated our employee cafeteria. It was refurbished with a better flow and desirable finishes which provided a warm, inviting and up-to-date area for our staff to dine in.

The Terrace Cafe was one of the first in the county to be granted a food establishment permit. At any time you can walk into the Terrace and see folks from outside agencies coming in to dine in our cafe. A renovation is likely in the near future.

Thanks Stephanie for your insight into all the great work being done by you and your staff at St. Charles!