Having studied childcare for three years at college, I knew I wanted to interact with people but I didn’t really know what type of job would suit me or how I would go about finding one. One of my teachers at college told me about Project SEARCH. It sounded like a great opportunity to grow my independence and was a good starting point for getting a job.
I was really pleased when I was accepted into the Project. My family were a little nervous; they weren’t sure I would enjoy it but they were really supportive and gave me the encouragement I needed.
My first placement was as a Ward Host on Birch Ward in Whipps Cross Hospital. It involved using the tablet to take patients’ lunch orders, pouring them tea and coffee, tidying away their cups and loading the dishwasher. I absolutely loved this placement. I really enjoyed talking to the patients and feeling part of the Ward Host Team.
My biggest challenge was working the oven. Different food items need to go on different shelves and, at first, I found it very confusing. But my job coach was really supportive and helped me work through this challenge. They drew a diagram of the oven and we worked together to label it so I knew exactly which shelves should be used for particular foods.
When the hospital started to see more Covid-19 patients, I was asked to become a picker and packer at the back of the house. This involved making the fruit and vegetable pots and delivering them to the wards. I really enjoyed this role too and being part of the team. It was very satisfying to be able to work at the hospital during such a difficult period. I really felt as though I was making a difference and that people appreciated me.
I did have problems finding my way around the hospital but then my job coach gave me a map and we worked out a route together. That really helped.
In January, all the Project SEARCH interns were asked to work remotely. Each day we would log on at 9 am to check-in and then we would do a variety of activities around employability skills and wellbeing. Whilst we couldn’t physically be in the hospital, it was great that we could all keep in touch with each other and our job coaches. It was also really good that we could have some sort of routine. It was a great opportunity to do some work on the ASDAN qualification but I was desperate to get back to the hospital.
I was so pleased when we were allowed to return at the beginning of February and I was even more delighted that I was a Ward Host again. I love this role. It has taught me so many new skills such as teamwork, problem-solving and multi-tasking and I am so much more confident and independent. I also find it much easier to adapt to new situations.
My Mum has also noticed a change in me and says I am much more confident. I think she also appreciates how I take more responsibility now – I even do my own laundry!
It has been brilliant to feel part of a team. The Ward Host Manager has placed a lot of trust in me and lets me work for multiple wards. It’s a big responsibility taking the patients’ lunch orders correctly but he knows I can do it and that means the world to me. I won’t let him down.
My job coaches have been fantastic and have given me so much support and encouragement throughout the year. They are with me every step of the way and I know I can always go to them with any problem – however big or small.
Looking ahead, I want to stay working in a hospital – either as a Ward Host or as a picker and packer. Through Project SEARCH, I now know how to write a CV, where to look for jobs and how to prepare for an interview.
I am so pleased I did Project SEARCH. It has really helped me work out what I want to do and I feel confident about applying for jobs when the time comes.