Fairfield Ledger
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Neighbors Growing Together | Sep 2, 2014

Interns graduate from job skills program

By VICKI TILLIS | Apr 24, 2013

Three Project SEARCH student interns will be graduating from the inaugural program during a ceremony at 5:30 p.m. May 2 in the Jefferson County Health Center conference room.

Mark Mayer, the instructor for the program offered by Optimae Life Services, told the Jefferson County Health Center Board of Trustees about the program during the board meeting Monday evening.

Mayer explained Project SEARCH is a nine-month long program in which Optimae teams up with a facility to train special–needs student interns with three different job skills.

“We are so glad to be teamed up with the hospital because it’s a facility with many opportunities to learn skills in housekeeping, med surgery, dietary, central store and laundry,” said Mayer, pointing out those are skills that can transfer to jobs at other locations and to other industries, as well.

In addition to the work skills, the student interns learn employability skills — they practice and have interviews and write resumes — as well as money management, healthy lifestyles, hygiene and boundaries.

According to Mayer, 80 percent of the people who complete Project SEARCH end up with competitive employment.

Mayer said the supervisors and department heads have been very helpful and provided good directions for him and the student interns.

“We’ve felt so accepted here,” he said.

Mayer told the trustees health center staff have commented the student interns are a big help — the student interns doing the less complicated tasks frees the staff to do the bigger jobs.

“It’s been a good learning experience, not just for the interns, but for all of us,” said Nanette Everly, HR manager and administration assistant. “It’s been really great.”

“We’ve seen a lot of growth in confidence and socialization,” said Mayer.

Everly expects another group of Optimae’s Project SEARCH student interns to begin working at the health center in the fall.

Health center administrator and CEO Deb Cardin announced a general surgeon has been hired to take the place of retired Dr. Richard Pitzen, who had been with the hospital since May 2003.

Dr. Beth Hothan-Zielinski has been working part time for about 1.5 weeks and will begin full time May 10 when she is able to fully relocate her practice here.

According to Cardin, Hothan-Zielinski has been in private practice in Mount Pleasant for several years. She was initially going to provide interim services at Jefferson County Health Center until a new general surgeon was recruited, but once she toured the facility and met the staff, she became interested in a more permanent employment arrangement.

“Our physicians are familiar and comfortable with her skills, so they are excited we were able to recruit a ‘known product,’” said Cardin.

Cardin also announced family practice physician Dr. Timothy Volm will be starting fulltime in the Fairfield Clinic PC May 6. He is moving to the area from Iowa City.

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