Win, Win, Win Internship Program for Rehab Center Staff, Residents and Participants

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Having already applied the soothing lotion to provide a much-loved hand massage, Project Search intern Yendiny Flores, 21, combs the lush gray hair of Patricia Zimmerman, 84, in her room at Radford Green Health Care and Rehabilitation in Lincolnshire.

“I don’t know what I would do without her,” Zimmerman says, smiling as she reaches out to stroke Flores’ chin behind the protective face shield that all healthcare workers wear. “She’s very nice. I work quite well with her. I’m so lucky.”

Flores says she also considers herself lucky. The North Chicago resident with dementia did so well with all of her tasks at the rehabilitation center associated with the Sedgebrook Senior Citizens Community that she was offered a job at the end of her internship.

“I belong here,” says Flores, a 2019 graduate of North Chicago Community High School.

The mutually beneficial relationships established through Project Search were born out of necessity.

“Obviously we are suffering from the same shortage that all healthcare facilities suffer from, which is a lack of staff, says Kim Akainyah, director of nursing at Radford Green. “It’s been very difficult to get replacement nursing assistants over the past two years since COVID, so we’ve had to think outside the box.”



Health Care and Rehabilitation in Lincolnshire, part of the Sedgebrook elderly community.” width=”600″ style=”max-width:100%;width:100%;” class=”lazyImg”/>

Health care support trainees Azalia Tellez and Yendiny Flores neatly fold and put away the clothes of a new resident at Radford Green Health Care and Rehabilitation in Lincolnshire, part of the Sedgebrook elderly community.
– Mark Welsh | Personal photographer


        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        
        

Nurses are overworked and CNAs, or Certified Practical Nurses, can also get bogged down caring for residents who need services.

“I help them,” says trainee Azalia Tellez, 21, a 2019 graduate of Grayslake Central High School who lives in Ingleside. “I fill water cups and do laundry. I moved in with a resident today.”

By performing tasks that don’t require medical skills or certifications, Tellez and Flores free up time for staff members to spend more time on their jobs. One of the most challenging tasks is getting residents to make menu choices for their meals and delivering the meals requested.

“It makes me proud,” Tellez says. She and Flores speak to residents and staff members in English and Spanish, know their way around the facility’s three floors, and can greet about three dozen residents by name.

Project Search was developed at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center in 1996. Sedgebrook has been with the program since 2016, offering internships in catering, operations, accounting, housekeeping and other areas. But Flores and Tellez dropped out of other internships when the healthcare support specialist program launched in February, says Annette Doherty, Clearbrook employee and manager of the Project Search program and employment development.

Clearbrook, the Arlington Heights nonprofit agency that serves more than 8,000 people with developmental and cognitive challenges, is teaming up with Sedgebrook, Lake County Special Education District, or SEDOL, and the Division of Illinois Department of Social Services Rehabilitation Services to support Project Search.



Helping nurses and staff at Radford Green Health Care and Rehabilitation in Lincolnshire makes them proud and needed, say Yendiny Flores, left, and Azalia Tellez.  The women are trainees specializing in health care support.

Helping nurses and staff at Radford Green Health Care and Rehabilitation in Lincolnshire makes them proud and needed, say Yendiny Flores, left, and Azalia Tellez. The women are trainees specializing in health care support.
– Mark Welsh | Personal photographer

Tellez and Florez, who take taxis to and from work that are paid for by their school districts, are in a classroom from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., work in Radford Green from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., then spend another half hour in class .

“They have their own set of skills,” Doherty says, explaining how the two learned CPR, were trained in ways to prevent falls and learned techniques to help them care for residents, some of whom are suffering. dementia or other more common problems. in the elderly. Instead of increasing the load on the staff, the interns respond to the call that the residents activate from their room.

“Does he need the TV remote or does he need medical attention?” says Doherty, who says the interns know what to do.

“It’s the first year we’ve done it, and it’s been a big hit,” Akainyah says. “It was great from the start.”



Doing laundry for the residents of Radford Green is just one of the tasks tackled by intern Healthcare Support Specialist Yendiny Flores.  She also delivers meals, answers call fires, performs other duties and serves as a companion to residents.

Doing laundry for the residents of Radford Green is just one of the tasks tackled by intern Healthcare Support Specialist Yendiny Flores. She also delivers meals, answers call fires, performs other duties and serves as a companion to residents.
– Mark Welsh | Personal photographer

The nurses and assistants “really appreciate the extra hand set,” Doherty says, and they also find it helpful to be mentors to young trainees. Residents welcome interns.

“An intern can provide that extra care, that extra attention to the residents. And the residents love seeing the young people,” Doherty said.

All of the roughly 50 interns who participated in previous Project Search programs have landed jobs, most paying more than minimum wage, Doherty says. Flores has a job offer and Tellez expects to receive an offer from a facility closer to home. Some benefits of the program are difficult to measure.

“Company is important,” says Doherty. “They get the extra attention. The students really engage. We develop relationships.”

Zimmerman echoes that sentiment.

“I’m so lucky with the people who work here. They’re great. They’re super nice,” she says.

“It makes me proud and happy to work with them,” Tellez says of the residents.

“It gives them meaningful employment, commitment and purpose in life,” Akainyah says of the interns. “Nurses and CNAs get extra support, residents get extra attention, and interns feel good about what they’re doing. How can that not be good?”

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