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.

5 thoughts on “The Psychological Impact of the Staff Dining Room in Nursing Homes”

  1. A well kept staff dining room helps staff feel appreciated and cared about by the administration. I think I have experienced both the best and the worst. The best was big, bright, clean, with huge floor to ceiling windows and matching tables and chairs. Food was free and you always had a choice of hot entrees as well as cold and there was ALWAYS dessert. Also, there was a seperate lounge for staff to relax. My absolute favorite thing about this facility is it is on the water and park benches overlook the bay. The worst facility I have, unfortunately, experienced is too scary to even talk about!

    Aesthetics are everything. So much can be done, and you are right, it can be done on a low budget. I can not understand how something so meaningful is so often overlooked. For those facilities that blame the cost, how about looking into reducing waste in other areas? I guess, though, that is a topic for another blog!

  2. At one place I worked at, they had a GREAT staff break/resource room…

    Tables covered with nice cloths, chairs, and a couple sofas in one section. A TV was on a small table; several bookcases (Library) held many books staff could sign out to read- all work related material.

    In the other, two semi private alcoves set up with computers the staff could use (internet access). A pay phone was also in this area.

    We always came into this room to clock in; there was ALWAYS A POT of fresh coffee; real milk and real half and half, sugars, cups…and donuts/danish. They kept a fridge in here as well, where juices and yogurt and fruit were kept. There was a soda machine and bottled water was once offered but they did away with that and gave staff their own special bottles with their names imprinted, to reduce waste.

    Staff had to preorder their meal, but it was free and it was usually good.

    Right outside this room was a patio section for the smokers and others.

    It was a nice retreat for us. Big enough to hold a lot of us, but set up with small group sections for intimacy.

  3. Regarding the cost, Sue, nursing homes could become very creative around this. I think many staff members would rally around the idea of a dining room renovation, so that the process itself could generate good will among the staff. What if a renovation committee was formed including interested members from various departments? Perhaps bake sales, raffles, and other events could be held to raise money, and the nursing home could provide matching funds. Maybe the facility could offer a pizza party for staff members volunteering to paint the dining room. There are lots of ways to get the job done.

  4. Patti, that break room sounds wonderful! Those are excellent ideas for other facilities to copy, especially the computer/phone access and the lending library, which might not immediately come to mind, but would be greatly appreciated by the staff. Thanks for posting.


  5. That all sounds great! Ours is in the back of the building, in the same room as the bathrooms, with a tv and refrigerator and microwave. 🙁


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