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Published on November 21, 2021

Riverview Students Spread Their WingsRiverview Students Spread Their Wings

By Lisa Leigh Connors

When student Mikayla Ring begins her workday at the Nicholas G. Xiarhos Blood Donor Center at Cape Cod Hospital, she checks in with her mentor and looks over her laminated list of tasks, which include filing paperwork, restocking food and beverages and taking samples to the blood lab. 

Jessie and Keegan

Jessie St. George and Keegan Hunt are dressed in their scrubs and ready for the day in the O.R. at Falmouth Hospital.

Mikayla

Throughout her day, Riverview student Mikayla Ring greets patients, files paperwork and sanitizes high-touch areas at the Nicholas G. Xiarhos Blood Donor Center at Cape Cod Hospital.

Hayden

Riverview student Hayden Brookins works in Sterile Processing at Falmouth Hospital.

Maya

Maya Todrin keeps the tables clean and stocks food items as an intern in Food Services at Cape Cod Hospital.

Falmouth Hospital Group

Vocational instructor Nikki Baldwin, left, and skills trainer Sarah Giannetti, right, work with eight Riverview students at Falmouth Hospital.

Cape Cod Hospital Group

Vocational instructor Amy Carroll, far left, and skills trainer Rebecca Wilson, oversee a group of Riverview students in the Project SEARCH program at Cape Cod Hospital.

Colin

Riverview Student Colin Carr, who works in Environmental Services, sanitizes high-touch areas at Falmouth Hospital.

Megan

Riverview student Meagan Snyder, who works as an intern in Environmental Services, cleans floors, sanitizes rooms and stocks up on supplies at Cape Cod Hospital.

Natalie

Riverview student Natalie Patterson works in Food Services at Falmouth Hospital where she grills chicken, helps with food prep and makes sandwiches and desserts.

Mikayla and Teri

Teri Lotterhand mentors Riverview student Mikayla Ring at the Nicholas G. Xiarhos Blood Donor Center at Cape Cod Hospital.

Kevin

Kevin Lombardo in Materials Management checks the expiration dates on packages and medical supplies at Falmouth Hospital.

“I like the work experience, the routine and meeting new people,” says Mikayla, who also spends her day greeting patients, sanitizing high-touch areas and reviewing delivery orders. When asked how her internship is going so far, six weeks into the program, she enthusiastically gives it a two thumbs up. 

Mikayla is one of 15 Riverview School students at Cape Cod Healthcare participating in the national internship program, Project SEARCH. The school-to-work transition plan, available to students who are in their last year at Riverview, helps young adults with developmental disabilities gain confidence, learn new skills and find jobs. Launched at Cape Cod Hospital in 2015 and Falmouth Hospital in 2017, the internship also helps build independence by giving students real-life experiences, from money management to taking their own public transportation. The daily routine is part of a post-secondary transition program called GROW: Getting Ready for the Outside World.

Apheresis technician Teri Lotterhand, who mentors Mikayla in the blood center, finds it a rewarding experience watching Mikayla blossom. “It’s always hard starting a new position, especially as an intern, because you don’t know exactly where you fit in,” says Lotterhand. “I love seeing her take on tasks she’s a little apprehensive about and she does it. It’s a confidence booster.” 

A Day in the Life

The students’ workday mimics the school day, 8 a.m.-2 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. The first hour begins in an instruction-based classroom with a nationally researched curriculum that focuses on topics from technology and communication to developing interview skills, creating cover letters and writing resumes. From there, they go about their workday and report to department heads in the E.R., Maternity, Outpatient Rehab, Food Services, Materials Management, Housekeeping, Nursing, the Blood Center, Operating Room or Sterile Processing. 

The departments at both hospitals depend on the interns to perform multiple tasks throughout the day and are grateful for their remarkable skillset and outstanding contributions.

Skills trainers Rebecca Wilson at Cape Cod Hospital and Sarah Giannetti at Falmouth Hospital coach the students, develop check lists and help them succeed. At Falmouth Hospital, intern Kevin Lombardo in Materials Management checks the dates on all medical supplies, restocks masks and recycles boxes, while student Natalie Patterson in Food Services helps with food prep, grills chicken, makes sandwiches and serves food to customers. Over at Cape Cod Hospital, Meagan Snyder in Environmental Services is busy on the third floor cleaning rooms, sweeping floors, discharging patients and stocking up on supplies. 

Keegan Hunt, who works on floors 2 & 3 at Falmouth Hospital, takes pride in his job. “I love working here,” says Keegan. “I like my coworkers and I love saying hello and working on two floors.” Hunt’s day involves restocking wipes and blanket warmers, sanitizing high-touch areas and helping with bed turnovers.

The Riverview team works hard to match students with the right department and mentor. 
“The students who end up here go through a complete file review and assessment process so we can make sure we are placing people where they will be the most successful,” says Project SEARCH coordinator Stefanie Patterson, who has been part of the Cape Cod Healthcare partnership from the beginning.

The ultimate goal is for students to gain employment. “Cape Cod Healthcare is committed to developing the skills and hiring the students upon graduation if they plan to stay on the Cape and most importantly, are ready to work at a competitive level,” says Patterson. But students come from all over the country and may decide to go back home or explore another career path. Cape Cod Healthcare has hired alumni in Nutrition and Food Services; CCH Gift Shop; Dietary Call Center; and Housekeeping.

“Mike Lauf (President and CEO of Cape Cod Healthcare) has taken us under his wing; he loves our students,” says Project SEARCH instructor Amy Carroll. Lauf has served on Riverview’s board of directors and was awarded the Dream Maker Award in 2017 at the school’s year-end fundraising gala.

Soaring to Success

Not only do the students gain valuable experience, the mentors find joy in making connections with the young students and watching their transformation over several months. 

Nikki Baldwin, Riverview School’s Project SEARCH instructor who oversees eight students at Falmouth Hospital, says her favorite part of the program is watching staff learn, sometimes for the first time, about people with disabilities and Riverview students as a whole. “People might be apprehensive about partnering with a Riverview student, and all of a sudden, realize just how incredible and capable they are,” says Baldwin.

Former mentor Bridget Torres, professional and organizational development consultant at Cape Cod Healthcare, will never forget her experience a few years ago working with intern Emily Granet in the Human Resources Department. She recalls giving Emily a Christmas present wrapped with a red bow. The next day, Emily wore the bow in her hair and called it her “magic bow.” Emily was a little shy and timid, says Torres, and the magic bow gave her the courage to try new things as well as overcoming her fear of flying.

“Watching Emily grow here at Cape Cod Healthcare has been one of the most rewarding aspects of my job thus far,” says Torres. “This amazing young woman realized her potential and the red bow simply signified to her that anything is possible.”

In many ways, this story is a metaphor for the Riverview students. Working at Cape Cod Healthcare allows them to spread their wings, fly into a meaningful career path and soar to success.

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