Sioux City Journal

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) _ Bernard Morris changes bedding in Mercy Medical Center’s emergency department and keeps it stocked with supplies.

The 17-year-old from Macy, Nebraska, told the Sioux City Journal that he feels like a real doctor when he brings physicians syringes and escorts patients to their rooms and radiology.

“It’s fun because you get to work with people in the ER and get in on all the action,” Morris, dressed in khaki pants and a hunter green polo shirt stitched with the words “Project SEARCH,” said as he sat in a chair in the hospital’s lobby.

Morris is participating in Project Search, an internship program designed to transition young adults with disabilities into employment within the workplace.

The program, which was founded in 1996 at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center to help fill entry-level positions, began at Mercy in 2013. Seven students from Macy, Winnebago, Homer and South Sioux City, Neb., receive real-life work experience, while learning how to improve their communication and social skills. They also explore goal setting, money management and healthy life choices.

Mark Schipper, project search instructor, said students work in a variety of areas in the hospital from the front desk to surgery. After their 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. shifts, they gather in a lower-level classroom in Mercy’s Central Medical Building where they journal about their days on laptops and tablets.

“Hopefully they’ll learn the skills that they need to get future employment,” Schipper said. “If the hospital has openings, they can get hired. They’re pre-trained going in.”

He said past participants are pursuing careers in the culinary arts and environmental services.

Marina Fernandez, 19, of South Sioux City, currently works at Wendy’s. She hopes the skills she’s learned peeling bananas and baking cakes and breads in the hospital’s kitchen will translate into a better job.

“It’s a good opportunity,” she said of Project Search. “You help a lot of people.”

Although Fernandez enjoys cooking, she said she doesn’t think she wants to make it her career.

Schipper said students have the opportunity to rotate positions in the hospital. Initially, he said they’re assigned tasks that fit their interests.

Since Morris wants to become a police officer, Schipper said the emergency room is the ideal place for him.

“As a police officer he’s going to work with ambulance crews and with the ER, even though it’s not medical,” he said.


Information from: Sioux City Journal,