What was the reasoning behind starting Nutrition Care Systems back in 1993?
Nutrition Care Systems was founded to provide long-term care facilities with a service that brought the many aspects of residents’ ‘nutrition care’ into the fold of facility management/corporations.
When I began my career as a corporate dietitian, most facilities had to find and hire nearby dietitians as independent contractors. Because they operated as independent consultants, their techniques and priorities didn’t always align with the corporation’s mission and goals. The result was different supplements and diets being ordered in different facilities – leading to procedural inconsistencies and jeopardizing the corporation’s ability to do business economically.
I started Nutrition Care Systems to bridge the gap between consultant dietitians operating independently and the need for operational oversight, support and training of such consultant dietitians.
How many initial clients did you start with?
We started modestly contracting with 10-15 facilities – a handful were in the Chicagoland area and several were downstate Illinois. Today we serve over 300 and our footprint has expanded to include Indiana, Iowa, Wisconsin and Missouri. The growth we’ve seen is direct testament to our loyal clients who have been such a valuable asset in this 25-year journey. I’d like to sincerely thank each and every one!
When did you hire your first employee?
At first it was just me working from the basement of our family home as I developed relationships with those first client facilities. I would get dressed as if I was going to the office but then head downstairs to the basement to start my day. Something about being in business attire helped me feel focused on the tasks ahead of me. My daughters were home and remember those early days, too.
I hired my first part-time employee in the summer of 1993, and had full-time staff by the end of that year. In fact, that first hire ended up spending most of her career with Nutrition Care Systems. She left for a few years to spread her wings and has just returned to us stating “I want to retire with NCS!” We couldn’t be happier to have her back. We have several long-term staff who have been with us since they started 20+ years ago! Nutrition Care Systems wouldn’t be what it is today without each and every member of our team.
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen within the industry and Nutrition Care Systems in the past 25 years?
I have seen the evolution of the long-term care (LTC) industry from medical facilities to resident care facilities – including all aspects of their care (social, emotional, and resident-centered). There has also been a marked increase in the number and types of facilities – now including memory care, assisted living, and retirement communities – that are meeting the needs of the growing geriatric population. This has been a positive evolution.
Our team at Nutrition Care Systems has grown as well. Five Regional Managers, covering five states, are responsible for nearly 50 field dietitians. We are now operating in skilled nursing facilities, critical access hospitals, group homes, continuing care retirement communities, assisted living facilities, supportive living facilities, community integrated living arrangements, intermediate care facilities, and specialized mental health rehabilitation facilities. We have also expanded our services to include menu development, sanitation class instruction, food handler trainings, manuals and telehealth.
Where do you see Nutrition Care Systems over the next 25 years?
Long-term care will continue to be a viable and needed industry. This population will continue to require living in the style to which they have become accustomed – thus continued efforts toward culture change can be expected. The LTC industry, and all who work and provide services in it, will need to collectively work toward maintaining excellent care and safety to its residents while partnering to help contain costs wherever possible.
Here at Nutrition Care Systems, we are dedicated to keeping up with industry trends by staying involved with local and national industry associations along with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. As far as continued growth within Nutrition Care Systems, my favorite saying is “the sky’s the limit!” With me now in semi-retirement, I leave the daily operations in the very capable hands of our senior management – Staci Bettiker and my daughter, Lisa Stewart. At the end of the day, the organization that I founded is never far from my mind, and I’ll always be involved in Nutrition Care Systems one way or another.
Thank you, Dorothy.