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Lee Health Celebrates Inclusivity with Project SEARCH

From the Desk of Dr. Antonucci

Oct. 13, 2021

At Lee Health, we are committed to creating and sustaining an inclusive workplace where people of different ages, ethnicities, religious and cultural backgrounds, and with various skills and abilities can be successful. This month, as we join companies and organizations across our country to recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month, we are also celebrating five years of hosting and facilitating Project SEARCH. This one-year transition from school to work program helps high school students with intellectual or developmental disabilities develop life and work skills appropriate for competitive employment. Project SEARCH is also supported by The School District of Lee County, Center for Independent Living and Vocational Rehabilitation.

Project SEARCH follows the calendar for The School District of Lee County, so the newest cohort of interns joined our team in August and are currently working at HealthPark Medical Center and Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida. The students will gain experience working in Guest Services, Food and Nutrition Services, Central Supply and Sterile Processing. They also will work in service roles in patient care areas, like the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), Pediatric Sedation, Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, Inpatient Pediatrics, Post-Anesthesia Care Unit (PACU) and Endoscopy.

Through the years, Lee Health has hired Project SEARCH interns for roles in Environmental Services, Sterile Processing and one of our former interns is now a patient care liaison in the PICU at Golisano Children’s Hospital.

Matteo is one of our Project SEARCH interns who was hired following the completion of the program. He was hired by Leesar in the Sterile Processing department in April 2019. Lee Health recently took over sterile processing, so Matteo is an official Lee Health employee now. In addition to celebrating more than two years on the job, Matteo is now mentoring another new Project SEARCH intern, Starling. With this added responsibility, Matteo receives more emails and important mentor communications, so he has to check his work email more regularly to ensure he stays informed. Matteo is gaining even more valuable skills as he guides and teaches Starling the day-to-day processes of Sterile Processing.

All of the Project SEARCH interns also receive education through the school district that is based on the “five Ps,” which include being polite, prompt, prepared, productive and positive. They are taught that if they incorporate these five Ps into their everyday lives, they will be successful.

Meghan Daley, Lee Health’s Project SEARCH coordinator, says at Lee Health, the interns learn about our ExceptionalLee Promise, too, which reads: “We promise to listen and communicate effectively, embrace empathy, act with compassion and continually improve care – creating a safe, comforting and healing environment for our patients, their families and each other.”

The teams that work with our Project SEARCH interns teach them the ins and outs of the job, but also what it means to live the ExceptionalLee Promise. “We appreciate our amazing employees at Golisano Children’s Hospital of Southwest Florida and HealthPark Medical Center for their time, attention and dedication to working with our Project SEARCH interns,” Ms. Daley says. “They are demonstrating the core values of the Lee Health team and emulating the ExceptionalLee Promise as they listen, communicate and treat everyone with respect.”

We are proud to host and participate in the Project SEARCH program. It is rewarding to empower these students to gain valuable and transferrable skills that will help them earn meaningful, competitive employment and independence.