Charleston VA program provides specialized on-the-job training giving Veterans a new career


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Two programs at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center – compensated work therapy and sterile processing services – have teamed up to create a valuable opportunity for Veterans to gain on-the-job education and training in Charleston, S.C.

Compensated work therapy is designed to assist Veterans who are not ready to seek immediate competitive employment due to significant barriers to obtaining and maintaining gainful employment in the community. Sterile processing services employees have direct responsibility for cleaning, disinfecting, and sterilizing scopes, equipment, and instruments, for educating others on reusable medical equipment regulations and process, and for ensuring the departments have adequate number and type of equipment and supplies necessary to perform direct care activities.

“As our VA organization continues to evolve and prosper, so should our efforts to support education and training for our Veterans,”” said sterile processing chief Rodney Hicks. “The support of [our] staff is essential in the program’s success. They provide on-the-job training and oversight to ensure [Veterans in the work therapy program] are performing within their assignments.   The moral support and structured work environment prepare [the Veterans] for employment.”

The majority of work therapy assignments lasts four to six months, however the assignment in the processing service is a full year, and highly desired among the trainees. The extended assignment allows the Veteran to gain enough experience to be eligible for a national exam to become a certified registered medical supply technician—a resume builder they can take with them anywhere.

“I feel that the certification is the greatest contribution this program makes to Veterans’ recovery and move towards independence,” said compensated work therapy supervisor Joan Dunn. “It gives those Veterans who complete the requirements a skill set that can be applied at the VA or any healthcare center and an opportunity to pursue a new career.”

Since the program began in 2011, there have been four trainees; three have gone on to become certified registered medical supply technicians and one is waiting to sit for the national exam. Two former trainees are now full time employees at the Charleston, S.C., VAMC. This year the program will graduate three trainees.

“The program has been the greatest thing that has ever happened to me,” said trainee Ray DeLoach. “It has helped me moved forward in life. After graduation I hope to be hired [at VA] and then get my national certification.”

Author

Erin Curran

Erin Curran is public affairs specialist at the Ralph H. Johnson VA Medical Center in Charleston, South Carolina. She has been with the VA for three and a half years and is passionate about sharing Veterans’ stories that highlight the strength of these national heroes.