Collaborations Boost Recruitment Efforts Through Healthcare Pathways

By Kate Carey-Trull
Participants in the recent G.R.I.T. program make final presentations on their experience in a five-week summer program at various Hartford HealthCare locations. Photo by Chris Rakoczy

Using internships and pathway programs, Hartford HealthCare teams are planting seeds of interest in the minds of high school students and others about careers in healthcare.

Those involved find out more about whether they’re interested in nursing, working in a lab, becoming an EMT or LIFE STAR paramedic, or a pharmacist. Then, they find out the steps they need to take to make it reality.

Project SEARCH

Six Project SEARCH interns completed 1,118 volunteer hours each — a total of 6,708 hours – in departments across Hartford Hospital, learning job skills and more. It was the second year of a partnership with MARC, Inc. to host its Project SEARCH program.

A community organization that provides opportunities for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities to lead meaningful lives of independence, choice, inclusion and continuous personal growth, MARC coordinates the nine-month internship program.

Internships allow students with disabilities to be immersed in a workplace setting, with hands-on experience that increases their skills and abilities.

This enhances their chances of gaining competitive employment and reaching goals.

Intern locations are based on their interests, including environmental services, food and nutrition, the gift shop, buildings and grounds, and respiratory.

At Charlotte Hungerford Hospital, Project SEARCH is coordinated through ARC of Litchfield County and includes placements in nutritional services, cardiology, cardiac/pulmonary rehabilitation, human resources, endocrinology, environmental services, urology, community health and storeroom. The hospital has hosted the program for three years, with interns completing three rotations each year. Last year, positions were offered to several interns after their experience in the program.


Get Ready! Immersive Traineeship (G.R.I.T.) is a five week summer program offered through ReadyCT for 10th- and 11th-grade students from greater Hartford work on real-world business projects.

The program offers workshops, skill-building exercises, guest speakers and other career learning opportunities. Teams of five to six students develop a product, service or solution for the hospital, leading up to a final presentation. One project last year, for example, entailed creating a map of the emergency department to be shared on the website.

As part of the program, G.R.I.T. students also tour The Hospital of Central Connecticut, Hartford Hospital, the Center for Education, Simulation & Innovation (CESI) and LIFE STAR. The Hartford Hospital tour wraps with a panel of speakers sharing their healthcare career journeys.

Allied Health Career Pathway

ReadyCT and Hartford Hospital also sponsor an allied health career pathway for Hartford High School with targeted curriculum that offers exposure to education and experiences related to various healthcare professions. Opportunities include internships, job shadowing, guest speakers, field trips, and other initiatives to prepare students to enter the healthcare workforce.

Last spring, there were 10 interns in departments throughout the hospital, including perioperative, dialysis and rehabilitation. Summer interns started in July at the Hartford HealthCare Bone & Joint Institute, laboratory, respiratory and perioperative departments.

Approximately 50 HHC colleagues, from a range of roles have visited the high school to conduct mock interviews, create resumes and vision boards, and discuss why and how they chose their career. Colleagues throughout the Hartford Region also donated professional clothing, shoes and gift cards to the ReadyCT Career Closet, which helps outfit pathway students for job interviews.

Revenue Cycle: Compassionate Care Includes Helping Patients Pay Their Bills

By Hilary Waldman

Every day, Mina Cushman provides compassionate, often life-changing care to patients who need a different kind of help following medical treatment.

As one of 14 financial counselors in the Single Billing Office, part of the Revenue Cycle Department, she helps patients find ways to pay bills that stemming from a medical event or diagnosis.

“They may be insured, under-insured, uninsured, all walks of life,” she says of patients who seek financial assistance, who all have one thing in common — after surviving a medical scare, they are afraid the bills might break them.

“I let them tell their story, even if I know they won’t qualify,” Cushman says. “I don’t want people to feel alone, like there’s nobody to reach out to.”

She has become an expert in finding ways to help patients afford their bills. She’s a dogged researcher and knows where to look for government programs, hospital financing and free bed funds bequeathed by private donors to help in specific circumstances.

Mina Cushman

About a year ago, she got a call from a man injured when he was hit from behind by a car barreling up I-91 at 75 MPH while he idled in pre holiday weekend traffic. He was on his way home from work.

The man, who did not want to be identified in this story, still chokes up when recalling the accident and marvels at how lucky he is to be alive. While his injuries were miraculously minor, extensive testing for suspected head trauma and an overnight hospital stay left him in shock when the bills arrived.

While the middle-aged man and his wife both work, their private insurance came with a $4,000 deductible. Between college tuition for two children, property taxes, insurance and car taxes, all due at the same time, the medical bills were more than they could handle.

At first, the man was offered a 25% discount, but even the reduced debt was too much. Cushman continued to dig and found a solution.

“She listened to my whole story. She could have said ‘There’s nothing we can do,’ but she didn’t,” he says.

In fact, the day she called him to say the debt had been erased was the second anniversary of his mother’s death from Alzheimer’s disease. He couldn’t help but think there was a connection.

Providing financial assistance is just one way Revenue Cycle works with patients along their healthcare journey. Attending to the financial aspects of care starts with patient registration, when patient and insurance information are collected. As tests are conducted and procedures performed, codes for every service are documented so insurance and other payers can be billed accurately. Once the bill is generated, colleagues in the Single Billing Office ensure payment is made. That’s where financial counselors come in.

“It’s really humbling because people open their lives to you,” Cushman says. “It’s a really good feeling knowing you can help someone.”