The best way to prepare for the annual state survey is to have properly trained staff that does their job to the best of their ability each day. The dietary department plays an essential role in the health and well-being of residents in a long term care setting, therefore complying with regulations year round is crucial. Remember the dietary department should be ready for a survey at all times because every day is a potential survey day.

It is important to ensure all logs are up to date. Teach staff why it is important to keep temperature logs for the dish machine, food, refrigerators, freezers, etc. and then check those logs not only for completeness but for compliance with regulations. If you recognize an issue with a temperature seek out the cause and fix it or place a maintenance request for malfunctioning equipment in a timely manner.  Another area to review is diet orders. Audit tray cards, supplement and snack lists against diet orders to verify accuracy. Surveyors will want to see that residents are receiving the meals, snacks and supplements that are prescribed.

Another area that a survey team will show interest in is the storage areas. Refrigerators, freezers and dry storage areas should be kept organized and clean. The areas should be free from debris, dirt and spills.  By keeping a proper accurate sanitation schedule your staff will be aware of their cleaning duties.  FIFO (first in first out) should be practiced in the storeroom. Dented cans in dry storage should be discarded or sent back for credit. Make sure ice scoops are stored properly. Check regularly to ensure all food items are covered, labeled and dated. In addition, make sure that foods are on the appropriate shelves; for example, verify that raw or thawing meats are not placed above produce or ready to eat foods. Additionally, be sure thermometers are hanging appropriately and functioning in all of these areas.

Dietary staff plays a big role in preparing for state survey in regards to their personal hygiene. Employees should have hair restraints on at all times while in the kitchen.  All facility staff should be aware that when they enter the kitchen they must first put on a hair restraint.  Dietary staff must wear suitable clothes and shoes, as well as no loose or hanging jewelry. It may be beneficial to review proper hand washing and/or glove use techniques with staff on a regular basis.  Be sure hand washing sinks are unobstructed and stocked with soap and paper towels and that warm water is available.

Cleaning and sanitizing play a huge role in the dietary department and each team member must follow proper procedures. The 3-compartment sink must have test strips available to test the sanitizing solution for proper concentration. Sanitizing buckets must be filled with sanitizer and tested regularly.

Remember when the surveyors are in the building doing their review, always do what you say do. If you tell the surveyors you always date everything and they find missing labels, then you aren’t doing what you said you would do. This misstep may open a can of worms for the surveyor to probe deeper into the department and see what else isn’t being done per policy.

The most important way to prepare for state survey is to stay calm and do your job well each day. Train your staff thoroughly and encourage them to be confident in their abilities.  As a supervisor or department manager, set an example for your staff daily and do routine inspections of the kitchen so that you can rest assured the dietary department is always survey ready!