jackieprice_smile copy.jpg

Jackie Price

Many patients staying overnight in hospitals feel alone and scared.

There can be a lot of information to take in — or maybe a fear of the unknown.

One Nash UNC Health Care employee who offers a friendly face and advocates for these patients is Jackie Price.

Price, a catering associate with the Nash UNC Food and Nutrition Services department, takes meals up to patients on the third floor and in the Heart Center from about 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. during the week. She serves breakfast, gets orders for lunch and serves lunch to patients.

“Many of the patients are elderly,” Price said, “and when I look at them, I see my mother. So I want to take care of the patients like I’d take care of my mother.”

She added that when people have been admitted to the hospital, good nutrition is vital to help them get better. Price said she notices if patients aren’t eating and tries to figure out if there is a solution.

“I ask myself, ‘Is there something we can fix them they will eat? Is it because it’s hard to chew or swallow?’ I can’t have them not eating, so I try to find a solution,” Price said.

Some of the solutions she’s come up with include serving ground meat, having entrees cut up in small bites before serving them and consulting with her coworkers on possible substitutes for menu items.

Price said she’s just doing her job. She credits the culture at Nash UNC for encouraging all employees to do their very best for all the patients. Price referred to Nash UNC’s “No Passing Zone” expectation.

“The ‘No Passing Zone’ means that no matter what your interaction is with a patient — if you are passing them in the hall, if you are checking them in, if you are just there to refill their water — if a patient is in need of care, it is your job to take care of them,” Price said. “This may mean running and getting a nurse or a doctor. Or this can mean helping them walk to their room. For me, it means if they’re not eating, I can probably figure something out so they will eat.”

Price said she empathizes with patients and even tries to help them find answers to questions not related to their food.

“Sometimes they’re just worried about something I can’t help with,” she said, “so I try to help them find the person that can get them some answers.”

Nash UNC Food Service Manager Nicole Thomas said Price is a great employee.

“She goes above and beyond to make sure our patients are taken care of. She also goes out of her way to help others if it’s in her power,” Thomas said. “She always has a smile on her face and is always pleasant.”

Nursing students and other staff on the floors where Price works frequently remark on her excellent interactions with patients and coworkers.

Price said it helps that there is such good communication between all the caregivers for a patient.

“It’s the kind of relationship that if I notice something about their eating — or not eating — the doctor or nurse should know, there’s a process to communicate that. We all want them to get better and work together to make that happen,” Price said.

In addition to working full-time at Nash UNC, Price also is taking a full load of classes at N.C. Wesleyan College to pursue a degree in health care administration and teaches fitness classes at a local gym.

“My goal is to keep working in the health/wellness field. My dream job would be to one day work here at Nash UNC in the Health and Wellness Department and help keep employees healthy,” Price said. “It’s a great place to work.”

“And I think I’m just meant to do something that involves taking care of people.”