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Nutrition centers improve health readiness

Patient care is at the core of multi-service market nutrition centers. These centers provide a range of services to meet individual patient needs within the military health community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Byrnes.) Patient care is at the core of multi-service market nutrition centers. These centers provide a range of services to meet individual patient needs within the military health community. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Nathan Byrnes.)

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Imagine being a hospital patient with food allergies and other dietary restrictions. Then imagine the other 300 patients in the facility, many with special nutritional needs. Every one of you needs three nutritious meals each day. While this is a challenge for the Military Health System, it is its own specialty for six large nutrition centers located around the United States.

A multiserve market is a cluster of military hospitals and clinics, run by different service branches, located in a specified geographical area and offering overlapping services. There are 11 such markets in the United States and four overseas. Six of these markets are considered “enhanced" multiservice markets, or eMSMs, because of overall size, medical mission, and graduate medical education capacity. The six eMSMs are located in Colorado Springs; the National Capitol Region; Oahu, Hawaii; Puget Sound, Washington; San Antonio, Texas; and Tidewater, Virginia.

Navy Lt. Elaina Virostko is the chief of clinical nutrition at Fort Belvoir Community Hospital in northern Virginia, part of the National Capital Region eMSM. Virostko said eMSM nutrition centers can benefit patients with a variety of requirements and diagnoses because of the large volume of expertise and services available. “We try to the best of our ability to make sure we’re meeting our patients’ needs.”

Nutrition centers are staffed with dietitians who work behind the scenes to train students or manage operations with the mission of preparing healthy and cost-effective meals for patients and staff. Dietitians and exercise physiologists also work with outpatients to develop personalized goals for weight loss, healthy eating, and prevention of heart disease and other chronic conditions.

“We have a big work load, but we have a hard-working and professional staff to share that expertise,” said Army Maj. Trisha Brooke Stavinoha, chief of patient room service at Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio.

Managing meal prep for more than 300 inpatients and factoring in dietary restrictions, allergies or nutritional needs, is a large responsibility, said Stavinoha. BAMC’s Patient Room Service Branch has approximately 65 staff members on board to help with patient meals. They include cooks, call center personnel, and expeditors who ensure that the cooked orders are delivered in a timely fashion.

At BAMC, inpatient and outpatient care is integrated, allowing an outpatient dietitian to continue the care provided by an inpatient dietitian, including reviewing the electronic health record to continue the plan of care and monitor goals, said Stavinoha. A multiservice market area also gives patients the benefit of consulting a provider at one location and then getting lab work done at a location closer to home.

“Patient care is at the center of what we do,” said Stavinoha. “We work to make a positive difference in people’s lives throughout the entire spectrum of care.”

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