Being a patient at a hospital any time of year can be difficult. Being in the hospital during a holiday associated with spending time with your friends and Family can be even more challenging.
Every Thanksgiving, Womack Army Medical Center’s Nutrition Care Division makes the extra effort to ensure that anyone visiting the hospital is able to experience a Thanksgiving meal. While medical staff do their best to discharge as many people as possible from the hospital so they can be home for the holiday, historically 40 to 75 people are inpatients at WAMC on Thanksgiving Day.
The hospital’s dieticians work hard to plan a Thanksgiving menu that can be enjoyed by everyone.
“Food plays a major role in quality of life,” said Capt. Emily Hege, chief, Inpatient Nutrition, WAMC. “It plays a large role in healing, too. If you’re not eating, you’re not going to get better.”
Each patient gets to select the entrée, starches, vegetables and dessert they want. Hege said that the choices will vary slightly for some patients on a diabetic or heart healthy diet, but that the team tries to give the patients as much liberty to choose what they would like to eat from the full menu.
“Food is an important part of Thanksgiving, so we try to make sure that everyone is able to get the food they want as much as possible,” she said.
The nutrition care team also provides visitors the opportunity to have their meals delivered along with the patient’s so they can dine in the room together. Visitors can order and pay for their in-room meal any time before Thanksgiving during regular dining facility hours. If a visitor misses the cut-off time for ordering, they may still go to the dining facility and request a to-go plate.
The WAMC dining facility expects to feed about 500 people for Thanksgiving. That means they are cooking 28 turkeys, 14 cases of prime rib, 252 pounds of collard greens, 10 cases of yams and 48 pounds of asparagus. This doesn’t even include the hams, pastries, breads, dressing, the 16 cases of shrimp for the shrimp cocktails and numerous other items.
“This is like our Super Bowl,” said Capt. Jeremy Brooks, chief, Production and Service, Nutrition Care Division, WAMC. “It’s our big event for the whole year. We start thinking about Thanksgiving and planning for it in July.”
In addition to cooking and serving the Thanksgiving meal, the dining facility and the command team partner to put together and deliver Thanksgiving baskets to every patient in the hospital.
“It’s one of our favorite things to do for the patients,” said Hege. “The entire staff works together to assemble them and we put a lot of heart into putting them together. We know the hospital really isn’t where they would choose to be for Thanksgiving, so it’s a great way to show in some small way how much we care.”