STEP students pose with our Tigers on the Prowl Tiger over the summer.

The 2016-17 school year kicked off STEPS’s (Seamless Transition through Enhanced Partnership) fifth year at Boone Hospital.

Students spend the first six weeks in the Transition Center at BHC learning interview skills and participating in team building and problem-solving activities. During this time, each of the students in the program job shadows in each department involved in the STEP program and then ranks his or her top two preferences for their internship.

Just like any other job, interns apply for the positions they want. Then the hospital’s Human Department interviews applicants before they move on to interviews in preferred departments.

This year each candidate was interviewed only by his or her first choice, which isn’t always the case. Then interns are offered a job. Once they begin their internships each student is paired with a Skills Trainer who is an ACT or Columbia Public School employee. The Skills Trainers coach the interns in learning skills that will transfer to any job in the community.

Russell, Nick, Louis, Jordan, and Shekila, this year’s STEP students, have already settled into their positions and are doing a great job.

STEP Career Specialist Barb Wright says, “They have all adapted well to their jobs and working hard learning the skills involved.”

Russell was assigned to Central Services Department, where sterilizing happens. He, rolls tubing needed for procedures, retrieves carts full of used surgical equipment, and returns carts to the Operating Room area to be filled up again. Russell also prepares laryngoscopes and cysto pans for sterilization.

Russell caught on quickly. He is enjoying his work and is definitely excelling.

“He is very independent,” Wright says. “When he finishes his tasks, he will find something to do and he will do it well.”

“This department keeps me going,” Russell says. ”I like every part of this job!”

Nick says of his job in Central Services, “It’s amazing!”

Stocking the isolation closets are his main duties. He must make sure the closets have a specific number (which he has memorized) of gowns, goggles, thermometers, stethoscopes, masks, wipes, gloves, garbage and dirty linen bags, pen lights, and other items needed for patient care.

“Nick is very quick and efficient,” Wright says. “He can stock a closet in less than 2 minutes. When he’s done, it is neat and organized.”

He takes pride in his job. He critiques the closets that are not up to his standards. He’s doing so well his supervisors have given him more responsibility. An additional floor is now his.

Louis was thrilled to be assigned the House Orderly Technician position. A major aspect of this role is stocking oxygen tanks throughout the entire hospital. He wheels a cart full of heavy tanks to different places on his list. He ensures that tanks are full. If not, he restocks them. Then he takes empties to the basement.

Between restocking tanks, Louis transports patients and makes sure there are plenty of wheelchairs distributed throughout the hospital…the “wheelchair run”.

All of these roles require walking, a lot of walking! That requires energy. “One day we walked six miles and took the elevator 30 different times,” says Skills Trainer, Paul Heywood.

Over in the Food and Nutrition department, Jordan is working hard keeping up with dishes used in the cafeteria and those used for patients. During breakfast and lunch rush he is on the tray line at one of the three positions. He sorts trash from dirty dishes as quickly as they come in. He also loads dirty dishes in the dishwasher and puts clean ones away.

During slower times he disposes of menus that have confidential information, preps the line for the next rush, organizes and cleans equipment. He does all of this while monitoring the cafeteria tray line for incoming trays.

“He has progressed a lot,” Wright says of Jordan. “He is building skills needed for this multitasking position and gaining independence from his Skills Trainer.”

Shekila is everywhere and seemingly never at the same place twice. She works in two different departments. That keeps her busy and on the move.

When she arrives at the hospital she starts in the Rehab Department, cleaning equipment and printing patients’ daily exercise protocols.   This would keep most people busy all day. Not Shekila. The hospital added a walker run, like the wheelchair run, to her responsibilities

Then Shekila is off to the South Tower to stock linens in ICU and the clean patient pantries and staff lounges on five floors.

“They have all progressed since they began,” Wright says. “This is a fun group of students to work with!”

This is evident in their work and in their interactions with coworkers. Students have left their checklists behind because they are confident in their positions. Each student is also eating with coworkers instead of on his or her own or with a Skills Trainer. This is a huge social accomplishment. They all feel like a part of the team.

Wright says, “Their successes wouldn’t be possible without the support of the departments. Boone Hospital accepts and honors these students. The interns recognize that and greatly appreciate it.”