Sabrina Bovee, RD
CARE HOME MANAGER
& SENIOR ADVOCATE
for something nutrishus
I know Sabrina from my undergrad years, although we haven't stayed in touch; earlier this year she appeared in the post Where are they now - a special feature on my dietetics classmates. I've been aware of her passion for aging with dignity and elegance and am always happy to share non-traditional roles. I'm sure you'll see her dedication shine through her responses.
Why did you become a RD?
I grew up with European immigrant parents who highly valued nutritious foods. Although I had sometimes wished my parents would send me with the wonder bread and cheese whiz and fruit roll-ups that my class-mates had, instead I was sent with rye bread and European deli meat sandwiches with fresh fruit. I can now appreciate how it instilled a love for good tasting healthy food.
What area of dietetics do you work in?
I am currently working as a manager of a 15 resident (and 1 respite bed) long-term care (LTC) home. So, I am in a non-traditional dietitian role. However, I am able to lead our 8 department team in excellent dining enhancement initiatives and potentially help flag resident nutrition concerns sooner than the monthly or every other month visit by the consulting clinical dietitian. I accepted this role with the desire to work towards improved life for seniors, and from a nutrition perspective, I want to prevent malnutrition and improve the food culture for our residents and communities. I found that with the regular nutrition assessments there were, at times, barriers to follow-through, or that when residents presented with what seemed like a lack of appetite solely based on a bad dining experience I could not change that with my recommendations. I thought that if the root cause was a poor life environment (unfriendly staff, lack-luster dining room etc.) no care-plan that I would create would really get down to the root cause of the problem. I was also not the one in charge of the “b” word- budget.
I began this new role a year ago, and since that time, one exciting initiative that we have started is a hydroponic indoor garden. Saskatchewan has a short gardening season so we have been fortunate to receive a donation of a 5 foot tall indoor garden unit that we will utilize to grow greens, herbs, strawberries and any other produce or plants that our residents feel like growing. We are able to allow our residents to give back (personal growth) via the nurturing and caring of these plants, as well as we are fostering partnerships with the school students who will be able to bring their science students over to learn about pollination (remember- there are no bees to do this for us in the care-home). Additionally, we will have a better variety of options for our menu, potentially the ability to sell produce to our staff and community and to raise money for the resident council. Lastly, we will be potentially reducing our food costs so that we can help to balance our over-all budgets and create a long-term sustainable health care system.
How would you explain what you do? What are your ‘typical’ daily/weekly tasks?
I am a part-time manager and I manage 8 departments: laundry, housekeeping, food and nutrition staff (cooks), nurses, care-aids, recreation and maintenance. With approximately 50 staff in my portfolio, human resources- recruiting and retaining staff along with labor relation concerns and ministry mandated projects including safe transfers, hand hygiene, etc. take up the bulk of my time (and more!)
However, I have carved out time to work on building an engaged team and a vision for our community health center. I believe that only when staff feel valued, cared-for will they be able to work towards greater improvements for the residents. We have had organizational and learning events and I have taken a baseline survey, a few months into my position, to measure improvements in morale, support from myself team work. We are seeing significant improvements and measurements such as an 8/10 for happiness by most respondents, show our readiness to move into other important areas of change. Beyond the staff, and the most important area is creating a person-centered care-home. Since I began, we have been dedicated to regular resident council meetings. Residents and their families meet to discuss and plan on all areas related the care-home. Menu and food choices are often at the fore-front. Recently, we have changed the “cooks choice” on the menu to “resident choice” and we have gathered a variety of menu ideas to further our personalized menu to meet our dynamic resident needs.
What has been your career path?
I started my career in community dietetics- with a focus on diabetes management and weight management. Then I moved into long-term care and worked providing education to care-home staff, as well as individualized nutrition care-plans for residents. On the side via The Grazing Goose, I have given some mindful eating workshops on my farm (we raise pasture-raised poultry, heritage pigs, and grass-fed beef; a whole other area of my life that I could speak to). Our future plan for the farm is on-farm stays so while only locals can purchase our products anyone traveling down the number one highway in the next couple years will be able to have the opportunity to vacation on our farm!
In the past 3 years I’ve also have the privilege of giving some public presentations to dietitians in Ontario (Gerontology network) and in British Columbia for dining enhancement work their multidisciplinary team is doing.
What advanced education or special training do you have?
I don’t have any specialized management training. My main strategy for success and survival (some days such as a lay off or termination notice days are awful) has been to pick good mentors. I have one dedicated mentor that I connect with, even for 30 minutes every few months. I also surround myself with positive, individuals that support me and believe in the work that I am doing. Many of these individuals are not health care professionals. However, they have a vested interested (as do we all!) in changing the culture of aging.
In an ideal world, what does the industry look like 5 years from now?
In an ideal world, in 5 years from now, we will have solved all the underlying causes that lead to poor dining experiences for seniors. For example, staff will be happy, healthy, empathetic and engaged in their work so that they can truly be present and facilitate an amazingly satisfying dining experience for our well-deserved seniors. Basically, we will have created an environment where by which even a dietitian that walks into the home says “wow! I want to eat here!”.
What misinformation about RDs would you like to clear up?
I am currently battling and challenging the misinformation in terms of the capacity of what a dietitian can do in management. Traditionally it has been Registered Nurses managing long-term care, and although there are now managers with a background as paramedics and social workers, a dietitian managing other health care professionals, at least in our province is extremely rare a thus new territory.
Anything else you’d like to add that you feel would be valuable:
I developed a mealtime educational tool for educating staff. It is free and available on YouTube or google “mealtime management video”. It’s a foundational educational tool for all staff working with seniors. The content is relevant to LTC, community and event acute-care. I hope that you will join me in improving the future of aging for all of us!
More about Sabrina:
Website: The Grazing Goose
Facebook: The Grazing Goose