Title:
Combination wall shelf and serving tray
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A combination wall shelf and food service tray is comprised of a breakfast-in-bed-like food serving tray adapted with mounting means for removable mounting of the tray to a wall in shelf-like orientation. In a preferred embodiment, the mounting means comprises a downwardly projecting longitudinal flange perpendicular to the serving surface of the apparatus, the flange being sized and shaped for cooperative engagement with at least one bracket which is permanently mounted to a wall. The subject apparatus is ideal for use by tray passers and other staff in hospital settings because it may be selectively stored in a convenient location within a patient room when not in use and removed for placement over a patient's lap during meal service.



Inventors:
Kieffer, Terry (Ocala, FL, US)
Application Number:
11/890392
Publication Date:
02/12/2009
Filing Date:
08/06/2007
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
248/235, 220/480
International Classes:
B65D25/22; A47G29/00; B65D1/34
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Primary Examiner:
PUROL, SARAH L
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Douglas Wm. Massinger, Esq. (Ocala, FL, US)
Claims:
What is claimed as being new, useful and desired to be protected by letters patent of the United States is as follows:

1. A combination wall shelf and serving tray apparatus comprising: a. an object bearing surface having at least one longitudinal edge disposed between a first side wall and a second side wall; b. a first support member extending perpendicularly or substantially perpendicularly from said first side wall; c. a second support member extending perpendicularly or substantially perpendicularly from said second side wall; d. a downwardly projecting flange depending from at least a portion of said at least one longitudinal edge; and e. a wall mounting bracket adapted for cooperative engagement with said flange and supporting said object bearing surface perpendicular to a vertical surface.

2. A method of delivering a food tray to a chair or bed-ridden person, the method comprising the steps of: 1) placing the food tray on a wall-mounted serving tray apparatus, said serving tray apparatus comprising an object bearing surface having at least one longitudinal edge disposed between a first side wall and a second side wall, a first support member extending perpendicularly or substantially perpendicularly from said first side wall, a second support member extending perpendicularly or substantially perpendicularly from said second side wall, a downwardly projecting flange depending from at least a portion of said at least one longitudinal edge, and a wall mounting bracket adapted for cooperative engagement with said flange and supporting said object bearing surface perpendicular to the wall; 2) disengaging the serving tray apparatus and food tray from said bracket; and 3) placing the serving tray apparatus and food tray over the lap of the person.

Description:

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The subject invention relates to the service of meals to patients in hospitals generally, and to a method and apparatus for facilitating the provision of meals to bed or chair-ridden patients, in particular.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The service of food and beverages to hospital patients presents numerous challenges to dietary personnel. A primary objective is to deliver meals to patients throughout the hospital as quickly as possible to assure that foods are served at their intended temperatures and at regular intervals. This task must be accomplished by hospital staff called “tray passers” without compromising their safety or that of patients which is always of paramount importance.

A typical method of delivering food to patients will involve the steps of loading individual food trays onto a cart in the kitchen, transporting the cart to a designated floor and/or hospital wing, entering the patient room to clear an area to place the food tray, exiting the room to retrieve the tray, and reentering the room and placing the tray onto the serving area.

In most instances, patient rooms are equipped with a height adjustable patient bed, a chair, a nightstand and a utility table upon which the food tray is placed. Conventional utility tables are height adjustable and L-shaped to facilitate positioning in close proximity to the bed- or chair-ridden patient. Often, however, proper positioning of the table is impeded by other equipment such as IV stands, respiratory equipment, traction and tubes or electric cables hanging from the bed. Additionally, the table must often be adjusted to a height that will enable its top to clear side safety rails of the bed. Not only is this an additional step which will slow down the serving process, but tables adjusted to fit over the side rails are often uncomfortably high for patients who would otherwise prefer their food at lap level.

Another problem associated with the use of utility tables as the receiving area for food trays is that they are almost always occupied by hospital equipment and personal items of the patient. From facial tissues, to wash basins, to magazines, eye glasses and beverage containers, just to name a few, there is rarely a sufficient area available for the placement of the food tray. Here again, the efficiency of the serving process is compromised because the server is required to clear the table of such items before the tray may be brought into the room for the patient.

Moreover, the handling of equipment and personal patient items presents a host of other problems for the hospital, its staff and its patients. First, it is undesirable for a server to be required to handle such objects from one room to another because of the increased risk of cross-contamination. A server who touches a drinking cup or wash basin of a first patient, for instance, will then carry and transmit germs to personal items of the next patient, and so on.

Another problem associated with the use of conventional utility tables as a supporting surface for food and beverages is that they are cumbersome to move and therefore difficult to clean. The accumulation of spilled food and beverages on the tables over a period of time creates an unsanitary condition, even when routine cleaning of the table is performed.

A second problem associated with requiring food service staff to move hospital equipment from the utility table is that it forces them into a position where they are required to make judgment calls regarding what equipment may be moved away from the patient's reach, and what equipment is important to remain there. Such a practice not only raises serious safety concerns, but also exposes the hospital to an unnecessary risk of liability.

Still another problem associated with requiring dietary staff to manage personal items of patients up to three times per day is that it exposes the hospital to a greater risk of theft allegations. The more hospital staff are required to handle personal property of patients, the more compelling will be the patient's allegations of foul play by said staff, whether justified or not.

Certainly there exists a longstanding need for an improved method of delivering food to patients in a time efficient and safe manner and which obviates the heretofore described problems associated with methods and apparatus of the prior art.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The subject invention more specifically relates to a breakfast-in-bed-like serving tray adapted with mounting means for removable mounting of the tray to a wall in shelf-like orientation. Accordingly, the subject invention may be appropriately characterized as a combination wall shelf and serving tray apparatus. In a preferred embodiment, the mounting means comprises a downwardly projecting longitudinal flange perpendicular to the serving surface of the apparatus, the flange being sized and shaped for cooperative engagement with at least one bracket which is permanently mounted to a wall. The subject apparatus may be selectively stored in a convenient location within a patient room when not in use or removed for placement over a patient's lap during meal service.

In practice, the subject wall mountable serving apparatus provides a means for improving the efficiency of meal service in hospital settings by providing a readily available clutter free surface upon which conventional food trays may be placed, thus avoiding the need for unnecessary and time consuming steps associated with conventional food service protocols. A preferred method of delivering a food tray from a cart outside the patients room and utilizing the subject apparatus will involve the steps of: 1) transporting the tray from the cart into the patient room, 2) placing the food tray on the wall mounted apparatus, and 3) either leaving the food tray on the “shelf” if the patient is out of the room or otherwise indisposed, or disengaging the subject apparatus from the wall and placing it over the lap of a bed- or chair-ridden patient. Note that the tray passers are not required to first enter the patient room to clear the utility table, exit the room to retrieve the food tray, and then reenter the room again for tray placement. Moreover, tray passers are not required to handle personal patient items or move heavy and/or awkward hospital equipment thereby lowering the risk of: 1) cross-contamination, 2) injury to hospital staff and patient, and 3) theft allegations. In another embodiment of the invention, the planar surface of the apparatus may include written indicia instructing patients or visitors not to place objects thereon to better assure that the apparatus remains available for use when required.

The subject apparatus may also be easily removed from the patient room for cleaning and disinfecting unlike conventional utility tables which are defined as “clean-in place” equipment meaning they are cleaned in the actual patient room when not encumbered by personal items of the patient and hospital equipment.

There has thus been outlined, rather broadly, the more important components and features of the invention in order that the detailed description thereof that follows may be better understood, and in order that the present contribution to the art may be better appreciated. There are, of course, additional features of the invention that will be described hereinafter and which will form the subject matter of the claims appended hereto. In this respect, before explaining at least one embodiment of the invention in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and to the arrangements of the components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced and carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology employed herein are for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting. As such, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the conception, upon which this disclosure is based, may readily be utilized as a basis for the designing of other structures, methods and systems for carrying out the several purposes of the present invention. It is important, therefore, that the claims be regarded as including such equivalent constructions insofar as they do not depart from the spirit and scope of the present invention.

Further, the purpose of the foregoing abstract is to enable the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and the public generally, and especially the scientists, engineers and practitioners in the art who are not familiar with patent or legal terms or phraseology, to determine quickly from a cursory inspection the nature and essence of the technical disclosure of the application. The abstract is neither intended to define the invention of the application, which is measured by the claims, nor is it intended to be limiting as to the scope of the invention in any way.

It is, therefore, a primary object of the subject invention to provide a combination wall shelf and serving tray apparatus which may selectively serve as a shelf for supporting articles or a breakfast-in-bed tray.

Another primary object of the subject invention is to provide a method and apparatus for delivering food and beverages to patients in a manner that is more time efficient and safe to patients and hospital personnel than made possible through methods and apparatus of the prior art.

It is another primary object of the subject invention to provide a combination wall shelf and serving tray apparatus that is fabricated from materials that are durable, corrosion-resistant, and non-absorbent.

Another object of the subject invention is to provide a combination wall shelf and serving tray apparatus that is fabricated from materials that are sufficient in weight and thickness to withstand repeated warewashing.

Another object of the subject invention is to provide a combination wall shelf and serving tray apparatus that is fabricated from materials that may be finished to possess a smooth, easily cleanable surface.

Still another object of the subject invention is to provide a combination wall shelf and serving tray apparatus that is fabricated from materials that are resistant to pitting, chipping, crazing, scratching, scoring, distortion and decomposition.

It is also an object of the subject invention is to provide a combination wall shelf and serving tray apparatus that is constructed to be free of breaks, open seams, cracks, chips, inclusions, pits, and similar imperfections.

Still another object of the subject invention is to provide a combination wall shelf and serving tray apparatus that is free of sharp internal angles, corners, and crevices which could retain moisture, bacteria, molds and other deleterious substances.

An additional object of the subject invention is to provide a combination wall shelf and serving tray apparatus that, except for portions which are permanently wall mounted, is accessible and transportable for cleaning and inspection without being disassembled.

Another object of the subject invention is to provide a combination wall shelf and serving tray apparatus that is relatively simple in design and therefore capable of rapid construction at relatively low costs.

These together with other objects of the invention, along with the various features of novelty which characterize the invention, are pointed out with particularity in the claims annexed to and forming a part of this disclosure. For a better understanding of the invention, its advantages and the specific objects attained by its uses, reference should be had to the accompanying drawings and descriptive matter in which there is illustrated a preferred embodiment of the invention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The invention will be better understood and objects other than those set forth above will become apparent when consideration is given to the following detailed description thereof. Such description makes reference to the annexed drawings wherein:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of the subject combination wall shelf and serving tray apparatus;

FIG. 2 is a side view of the invention of FIG. 1 shown mounted to a vertical surface; and

FIG. 3 is a perspective view of the subject invention mounted to a vertical surface and supporting a food tray.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Reference is now made to FIG. 1 in which there is illustrated a perspective view, of the subject combination wall shelf and serving tray apparatus (hereinafter sometimes also referred to as simply “serving apparatus”), designated generally by reference numeral 10. The subject invention has two primary components, namely a breakfast-in-bed-like serving tray 12 and mounting means as herein described for removable mounting of the tray to a vertical surface in shelf-like orientation. Accordingly, the subject invention may be appropriately characterized as a combination wall shelf and serving tray apparatus.

In a preferred embodiment, serving tray 12 is comprised of an object bearing surface 14, preferably but not essentially rectangular in shape, having a perimeter 16 and opposing first and second support members 18a and 18b, respectively, which are preferably but not essentially integrally formed with said object bearing surface 18. In alternate embodiments, support members 18a and 18b may be separate components fixedly attached to object bearing surface 14, or pivotally mounted thereto with means for locking the support members in an up or down position in a manner well known to those skilled in the art. Together, support members 18a,b serve to support object support surface 14 at a predefined distance above a surface upon which support.

Object bearing surface 14 may further include an elevated rim 20 about its perimeter 16 to inhibit movement of objects placed thereon. In a preferred embodiment, object bearing surface 14 and rim 20 may be shaped to closely correspond to the shape of a food service tray such that the latter may rest securely on object bearing surface 14 with reduced risk of disengagement generally and planar slippage in particular.

With continued reference to FIG. 1, first and second support members 18a,b may be observed to depend from object bearing surface 14 in substantially perpendicular fashion although other angles of dependency are also contemplated. For instance, the free ends 22a and 22b of support members 18a and 18b may be flared away from one another to impart greater stability to the apparatus as a whole, particularly when in use over irregular surfaces such as a bed or lap of a user. Note that the free ends 22a,b of corresponding support members 18a,b preferably but not essentially terminate in feet 24a and 24b which are attached in coplanar relationship with object bearing surface 14 and serve as additional surface area over which the weight of the apparatus 10 and objects supported thereon may be distributed. First and second support members 18a,b each have a height sufficient to comfortably accommodate the legs of a user beneath object bearing surface 14. A height of 9-11 inches is preferred.

First and second support members 18a,b also preferably but not essentially include handling means which facilitate grasping and transport of apparatus 10. In a preferred embodiment, handling means is comprised of apertures 26a and 26b disposed through the midpoint of support members 18a and 18b, respectively, in close proximity (i.e., approximately 1-2 inches) to object bearing surface 14. As may be readily appreciated, apertures 26a,b serve as openings through which a user's fingers may be inserted to carry the apparatus. Apertures 26a,b are preferably oval in shape or otherwise contoured to provide comfort to the user.

Serving tray 10 includes mounting means for mounting of the apparatus to a vertical surface 28 (FIG. 2) in shelf-like orientation meaning so that object bearing surface 14 is perpendicular to the vertical surface to which it is mounted and occupies a horizontal plane. In a preferred embodiment, mounting means is comprised of a downwardly projecting flange 30 integrally formed with at least a portion of first longitudinal edge 32 of object bearing surface 14, the flange being sized and shaped for cooperative engagement with at least one U-shaped bracket 34 which is permanently mounted to a wall using mounting screws 36. Bracket 34 is more specifically comprised of a wall abutting panel 38 having at least two mounting holes 40 there through for the receipt of mounting screws 36. Mounting holes 40 are preferably but not essentially spaced 16″ on center to facilitate mounting of the bracket 34 to wall studs. Bracket 34 further includes bottom panel 42 perpendicularly connected to the bottom edge 44 of wall abutting panel 38 along its length, and upwardly projecting front panel 46 perpendicularly connected to bottom panel 42 as shown. Together, wall abutting panel 38, bottom panel 42 and front panel 46 of bracket 34 form a channel 48 into which downwardly projecting flange 30 may be inserted to mount serving tray 10 to vertical surface 28. It should be noted that in the embodiment illustrated it is preferred that bracket 34 have a length less than that of first longitudinal edge 32 so that front panel 46 can fit between support members 18a,b. Moreover, it should be appreciated that a second flange 50 may be integrally formed with at least a portion of second longitudinal edge 52 of object bearing surface 14 so that the subject serving tray may be wall-mounted from either side. Thusly configured, serving tray 10 is symmetrical in design. Those skilled in the art will readily recognize numerous alternative means of mounting the subject apparatus to a vertical surface and in shelf-like orientation, the above described mounting means being merely illustrative.

Given that the subject serving tray 10 is intended to support conventional food serving trays and will be in close proximity to the user while eating and drinking, it is likely that food and beverages will come into direct contact with its surfaces. When it comes to keeping surfaces sanitary, non-porosity is key. Using porous materials that can absorb water and subsequently hold onto it increases the chances of cross-contamination from growing bacteria. Moreover, because the surfaces of the subject apparatus will be exposed to splash, spillage, or other food soiling and will require frequent cleaning, said surfaces shall be constructed of a corrosion-resistant, nonabsorbent, and smooth material. Such materials may not allow the migration of deleterious substances or impart colors, odors, or tastes to food and under normal use conditions shall be: safe; durable, corrosion-resistant, and nonabsorbent; sufficient in weight and thickness to withstand repeated warewashing; finished to have a smooth, easily cleanable surface; and resistant to pitting, chipping, crazing, scratching, scoring, distortion, and decomposition. Particularly when employed in a hospital setting the subject apparatus is preferably constructed to be free of breaks, open seams, cracks, chips, inclusions, pits, and similar imperfections; free of sharp internal angles, corners, and crevices; finished to have smooth welds and joints; and except for the mounting means, accessible for cleaning and inspection without being disassembled.

For example, the subject apparatus may be fabricated from high density polyethylene, a clean, white, high-impact plastic material that is almost unbreakable. As an alternative, the subject apparatus may be fabricated from polypropylene to exhibit very high corrosion-resistance to acidic, alkaline and saline solutions. In this embodiment, the apparatus is satisfactory for service at temperatures up to 250° F. and can be sterilized. The polypropylene construction has high tensile strength and tremendous impact strength and very importantly has virtually no water absorption. This material may be used to create a special “skid-proof” textured surface to resist sliding of contained material. Another viable alternative is to fabricate the apparatus from fiberglass which will provide a smooth surface with rounded corners for easy cleaning. Sturdy fiberglass won't dent, chip, bend, peel, crack or warp. Fiberglass is suitable for color coding of the apparatus and are impervious to dishwasher temperatures and detergents and resistant to industrial cleaners. It will withstand continuous service from −40° F. to 250° F. with intermittent service as high as 300° F. Other suitable materials may also be employed.

In another embodiment of the invention, object bearing surface 14 of apparatus 10 may include written indicia such as, for example, “For Dietary Use Only: Do Not Place Items on This Shell” to assist in assuring that the apparatus remains available for use when required,

Method of Use

When employed in a hospital setting, the subject wall mountable serving apparatus provides a means for improving the efficiency of meal service by providing a readily available clutter free surface upon which conventional food trays may be placed, thus avoiding the need for unnecessary and time consuming steps associated with conventional food service protocols. Upon arrival of a food cart outside a patient's room, a preferred method of delivering a food tray stored within the cart utilizing the subject apparatus will involve the steps of: 1) transporting the tray from the cart into the patient room, 2) placing the food tray on the object bearing surface 14 of the wall-mounted apparatus (FIG. 3), and 3) either leaving the food tray on the subject apparatus if the patient is out of the room or otherwise indisposed, or disengaging the body of the subject apparatus from its holding mounting bracket 34 and placing the apparatus over the lap of a bed- or chair-ridden patient. When the patient is finished his or her meal, the apparatus and supported food tray may be together moved away from the patient and stored on mounting bracket 34 until the tray is retrieved by food service personnel.

Although the present invention has been described with reference to the particular embodiments herein set forth, it is understood that the present disclosure has been made only by way of example and that numerous changes in details of construction may be resorted to without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. Thus, the scope of the invention should not be limited by the foregoing specifications, but rather only by the scope of the claims appended hereto.