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Published on December 18, 2015

Riverview School students learn the ropes at CCHRiverview School students learn the ropes at CCH

Connor Hogan and Alex Tetreault have been busy making their rounds in the Cape Cod Hospital Emergency Center. From stocking and organizing the linen closet to sanitizing the break room, waiting rooms and nurse work area, the two local Riverview School students spend Tuesday through Friday as supply technicians at the hospital.

Connor and Alex are the first interns from Riverview School to work within the Emergency Center as part of the school’s participation in the national internship program, Project SEARCH. Founded in 1996 by Erin Riehle, director of the Emergency Department at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, Project SEARCH is a business-led collaboration that enables young adults with disabilities to gain and maintain employment through training and career exploration. The program is currently replicated at 300 locations throughout the United States, Canada, England, Scotland, Ireland and Australia.

“There’s a lot to do here,” said Connor. “We clean out and stock the linen closet shelves, stock blanket warmers and empty recycling.”

For Connor, having the opportunity to work within the hospital, especially the Emergency Center, has been really rewarding. When asked about his favorite new skill, he noted the ability to build connections. Connor has already made a host of new friends including local paramedic students who he has met up with for lunch on occasion.

“My dad is a paramedic. I’ve been able to connect with him more, too,” added Connor. “We get to have conversations about work and what we’ve seen or had to do.”

Alex also has a history with healthcare; his mother works in a hospital.

“The ER is very busy, I like that I am always moving around,” he said. “I want to work the ER night shift.”

Alex has also found making friendships with hospital staff easy. Topping his favorite things to talk about is Patriots football, and he often can be found bantering back and forth with the nurses and other techs. Along with improving his communication skills, Alex said he has learned a lot about a commitment to getting the job done right.

“I’ve learned to take my time. I am really working on slowing down and focusing on quality.”

Specifically at Riverview School, Project SEARCH takes form as a one-year internship program, available to students who are in their last year. Implemented in 2011, the program offers on-the-job training and education, which helps to prepare students for competitive employment.

“The Cape Cod Healthcare partnership was brand new in September,” said Stefanie Patterson, Riverview School’s Project SEARCH Instructor. “We began meetings back in July where we gathered with managers to start brainstorming jobs, responsibilities and the steps needed to launch.”

In collaboration with department managers, Patterson recognized that it was important to choose departments and duties within the hospital that would work best for the students. That led to the creation of various task-oriented positions within the health system including in the ER, Outpatient Rehab, Human Resources, Occupational Health, IV-EEG, Pharmacy, Sterile Processing, Radiology and Food Services.

As both Riverview and CCHC continue to build the foundation for this program, the goal is to create a catalog of internships available throughout the health system that will allow the interns to have as many options possible that fit their individual needs and aspirations.

“It’s been really exciting to watch Connor and Alex grow,” said Jill Notaro, RN, at the Cape Cod Hospital Emergency Center. “In the beginning they were very dependent and would come to me for every little thing. They don’t need to anymore because they are confident in what they’ve learned and their own decision-making. It’s truly remarkable to compare when they came here to where they are now.”

Their personalities have certainly blossomed as well. Both students have made great strides in improving their communication and interaction with others.

“Connor has really come out of his shell,” said Notaro. “And Alex, when he speaks to me, he looks right in my eyes. I have goose bumps just talking about it all.”

“The success and impact these young men and woman have had across Cape Cod Healthcare has exceeded expectations,” said Ceci Phelan Stiles, Senior Manager of Human Resources at Cape Cod Healthcare. “The response hospital administration and human resources have received from employees and patients have confirmed that this program is and will continue to be a success.”

“As compassionate healers and educators, sometimes at a job you lose that focus and get caught up in the day-to-day. But these students and this program bring you back to your center,” Patterson said. “The CCHC staff has made the program a success because of who they are and how they are embracing our students. The staff truly is so amazing here.”

As Connor and Alex’s Emergency Center rotation comes to an end on December 18th, new Riverview interns will arrive – with some big shoes to fill.

“The first ones are always going to be your favorite,” said Notaro. “The staff loves these guys. We know that they work hard and do a good job. We’ve gotten to help them spread their wings. They are going to be sorely missed, but as they move into new roles at different departments we’ll also branch out here and meet new people. It’s all about getting out of your comfort zone.”

Both interns have high hopes for their next rotation at the hospital. Connor may end up in Outpatient Rehab where he can continue building connections with patients he’ll see more regularly. And Alex is hoping for Radiology, so that he won’t be too far from the hustle of the emergency center.

And who knows; you may just catch Alex working that night shift in the ER.

[PHOTO L-R: Connor Hogan; Jill Notaro, RN; Alex Tetreault]