The Psychological Impact of the Staff Dining Room in Nursing Homes
The best nursing home staff dining room I’ve ever seen was a large bright room with a wall of windows and plenty of welcoming seating. Staff members purchased discounted food, which was tasty enough to entice those outside the nursing home community to come in and pay full fare. A salad and sandwich bar was offered, as well as a choice of three hot entrees. On pigeon pea soup day, there were lines down the hall and folks buying extras to bring home for dinner.
Unfortunately, most nursing home staff dining rooms are cramped, windowless, basement spaces, renovated some time during the Reagan administration. With peeling wallpaper, inadequate seating, and unappealing food, these dining rooms offer no refuge from the busy units on which the staff work.
It is essential for the line staff to have a place where they can be nurtured and replenished so they can return to their units to nurture others. Those working on the floors spend their days dealing with often unattractive aspects of life: toileting, wound care, agitation, etc. Providing a clean, cheerful, well-maintained dining area can go a long way toward creating a psychologically healthy work space. Upgrading the staff dining room is an instant morale booster, affects the greatest number of people, and lasts longer than a staff party.
One nursing home I know made a vast improvement in their basement dining room with a very low budget. A fresh coat of paint, some artwork by the staff, and matching secondhand tables and chairs completely changed the atmosphere, and the attitude of the diners.