This month, Bon Secours recognized 17 students across the Richmond area with intellectual and/or developmental disabilities for their completion of Project SEARCH, a national school-to-work program. Project SEARCH provides hands-on training to students with disabilities through internships at health care facilities and other businesses, with a goal of employment upon completion. Five Chesterfield County students, six Henrico County students and six Hanover County students received certificates for completion of nine-month internships at celebration events held at each of their internship sites.
Bon Secours hosts four Project SEARCH sites across the state; three in the Richmond area and one in Portsmouth. The three Richmond sites include Bon Secours St. Francis Medical Center, Bon Secours St. Mary’s Hospital and Bon Secours Memorial Regional Medical Center, and operate in partnership with local public education systems, VCU Rehabilitation Research and Training Center, and the Virginia Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services. These partners provide funding and instructional support, as well as job coaching and supported employment services to students in the program.
Through Project SEARCH, the students are assigned to a Bon Secours hospital in their locality; each student rotates through three hospital departments. Teachers, teaching assistants and job coaches provide them with direct instruction during the rotations, collaborating with hospital department supervisors. Working with hospital supervisors and staff, the students receive hands-on skills training, including stocking supplies, filing, copying, assembling paperwork packets, making deliveries, cleaning, sanitizing equipment, turning over patient rooms and putting together supplies for the nursing units. Each student sets a goal of gaining employment by the end of the school year.
Bon Secours’ partnership with Project SEARCH began in 2009 at St. Mary’s Hospital as part of a VCU research study designed to gather research on examining how to best help youth with autism gain and maintain employment upon graduation. After being proven as highly successful, the program has continued following the completion of the research in 2017.
With 22 students receiving diplomas this month for the completion of Project SEARCH internships at four Bon Secours sites across Virginia, the health system has awarded a total of 188 diplomas to students with disabilities since 2009.