TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center: A Model for Work-Based Learning

Key Factors to Southern Hills’ Success

Students Working in Kitchen

Employer Factors

  • Providing opportunities for students to adequately train and learn new skills
  • Offering a team-based work environment
  • Demonstrating a commitment to partnership with school district
  • Willing to work with school staff to support youth

School Factors

  • Offering work-based learning program
  • Developing long-term partnerships with employers
  • Working to meet the needs of the employer as well as youth

For 14 years, students from Mr. D’s class at Glencliff High School have been a part of the Southern Hills family. Mr. D (full name John DeJarnette) is a teacher with Metro Nashville’s Community Based Transition Program (CBTP).  CBTP provides community-based vocational training for students who have graduated with a special education diploma.

The students work a variety of jobs at Southern Hills across several different departments, assisting with such tasks as preparing meals, stocking supplies and linens, and stuffing envelopes. In addition to gaining work experience, the students cultivate valuable social skills, interacting with the public and hospital staff. TriStar Southern Hills Medical Center CEO Thomas Ozburn observes, “It only takes one instance of meeting these young people to alleviate any stereotypical fears that might be associated with working with people with disabilities.”

Southern Hills provides a great learning and working environment for Mr. D’s class, but medical center staff are quick to point out that the students are also a real asset to the medical center. Ozburn notes that the students make the hospital a much richer environment. “What some people would maybe characterize as a disability, others might characterize as a strength,” says Ozburn. “For those individuals we have brought on board, it’s opened our eyes to number one, just seeing what these unique individuals have to offer.” Director of Support Services Michah Yandell points out that the students provide services that cannot be filled with the rest of the hospital staff, and adds that they improve relationships with the staff and visitors who encounter them.

The success of CBTP at Southern Hills serves as a model for work-based learning, no matter what industry. “You don’t have to be in healthcare to do this. Anybody can do this,” Ozburn emphasizes. School districts and employers can use the key factors to Southern Hills success to create or strengthen their own partnerships and programs.