Project SEARCH connects special-needs students with hospital careers

Young man wearing scrubs cleaning hospital bed

Healthcare is an exciting field to work in, but often physical or other limitations can block someone from pursuing a hospital job. Sunrise Hospital in Las Vegas recently partnered with the Clark County School District and the Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation’s Project SEARCH High School Transition Program, which provides real-life work experience combined with training in employability and independent living skills to help youths with disabilities make successful transitions from school to productive adult life.

Project SEARCH began in 1996 and now has more than 150 locations across 39 states and four countries. It reports a nearly 70 percent employment outcome within one year upon a student completing the Project SEARCH Program.

This was Sunrise’s first year as a job site, and staff was eager to help a group of high-school graduates overcome those hurdles and get some practical experience in many different hospital settings.

The nine-month work program allowed five student interns to get feedback and mentoring every day they were on the job. One worked in the food and nutrition department, while others worked in security, a reception desk in outpatient pediatric rehab, environmental services and as a tech in the sterile processing unit.

“I’m a hard worker. I would like to join the staff,” says Moises Reyes, who worked as a tech, and was hired after the program concluded. “It’s hard to find jobs as a deaf person. Most people I’ve worked with here have no problem tapping me on the shoulder and looking me in the eye when they talk to me. I fit in here.”

The two students who were hired already have become favorites with hospital staff, says Tracy Netherton, manager of guest services.

“Moises spent time in the mailroom and in sterile processing, performing tasks alongside our pump tech. He was very reserved when he first joined us. Within weeks he was teaching everyone sign language, laughing and smiling and is even using his own voice to talk to people. Ronaldo Vazquez was hired in our kitchen as a kitchen aide. The whole facility has embraced them and their presence here has greatly affected our culture.”

“Many of these students have overcome extreme hurdles to make it to this point,” says Todd Sklamberg, CEO. “No matter the perceived limitations of these students, this program strives to provide the job training for students with disabilities to work toward a career and to accomplish goals of independence. This is an important commitment Sunrise Hospital is making to our community. Next year we will have 15 students and I hope we can hire many of the graduates. I am so proud of all of our department leaders who mentored these students!”

Project SEARCH students learned a lot about hospital operations during their time at Sunrise Hospital.

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Young man taking trash out of bin at hospital cafeteria

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