Two years ago, The University of Tennessee Medical Center paired with the Breakthrough Corporation to bring a unique internship for adults with disabilities to the medical center. Called Project SEARCH, the program (which is modeled after a successful program in Cincinnati), provides skills training and workplace internships for individuals with significant disabilities, particularly young people transitioning from high school to adult life. Each year, 10 interns are selected to join Project SEARCH. The interns have three, 10-week rotations in areas of their interest. The program includes training sessions, classroom education, and hands-on work experience. Project SEARCH also teaches professional skills and etiquette, such as learning to communicate better with patients, team members and visitors.
Most importantly, the interns learn independence. The program provides students with both a job coach and a mentor, but many of the interns become self-reliant by the end of the program.
In 2015, the second class of Project SEARCH graduated at the medical center. Graduation is an important day filled with a multitude of emotions. The interns feel proud of their achievement, as do the team members who witnessed their growth throughout the program. Graduation allows interns to reflect on how they matured, and it is also a time where the medical center staff expresses its gratitude and appreciation for the interns.
The goal of Project SEARCH is to provide interns the skills they need to get jobs in the community. In the graduating class of 2014, 10 out of the 17 interns from The University of Tennessee and East Tennessee Children's Hospital took jobs in the area.
While Project SEARCH hopes that all interns will seek immediate employment, some learn through the program that they would rather pursue other opportunities. For instance, one student went on to enroll in a local degree program.
The interns gain much more than professional experience and communication skills from Project SEARCH. They gain knowledge about themselves, develop friendships and a chance to become involved in the community. The University of Tennessee Medical Center is honored to be able to offer Project SEARCH to the people of our region.
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