Christina: Mastering a Job with Remote Supports During COVID-19

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Background  

Christina Peritz is an energetic young woman who works at Bothwell Hospital in Sedalia, Missouri as a part-time dietary aide. She enjoys her job and earns well above minimum wage. During the COVID-19 pandemic, Christina’s work conditions and responsibilities changed. As a result, the nature of her supports also shifted from having an on-site job coach to remote supports via iPhone. With the support of her provider, the Center for Human Services (CHS), Christina was able to alter her position and supports and maintain employment.

What’s Important

Prior to the pandemic, Christina was working up to 30 hours a week at the hospital. She prepared meals on trays and delivered them to patients’ rooms, washed dishes, and sanitized trays. As COVID-19 restrictions went into effect, Bothwell Hospital had to restrict many people, including Christina’s job coach, from entering the building since they were not considered essential. Although the hospital needed Christina, they offered her the choice to stop working because of the changes and risks. But Christina wanted to continue working and the hospital was glad to have her.  

CHS was committed to supporting Christina’s choice to continue working. Fortunately, before COVID-19 hit, Kim Anderson, Director of Employment Services at CHS, had already asked local county boards to fund technology to support people at work remotely. This would help job coaches fade in-person supports and help individuals work more independently.  

The county boards agreed to this request. After the pandemic began, Christina was the first person served by CHS to receive a dedicated iPhone, one of the smart devices provided through the county boards’ funds.  

Using the iPhone, Christina and her job coach were able to switch within a day from working together in person to remote support. At first, Christina’s remote supports involved her job coach checking in every hour she was at work and encouraging her or her supervisor to contact the job coach at any time if she needed help with anything.  

The iPhone, which was kept at the job site, was loaded with a specific set of apps needed for remote support, including phone, text, FaceTime, and the Teams project management app. It served as a dedicated device for both Christina and her supervisor to contact the job coach (Christina has another cell phone for personal use).  

Over time, Christina became more proficient at her tasks and more confident about initiating calls to the job coach to check in or ask for help. The supports lessened until Christina and the job coach were checking in at the beginning and end of each shift and on breaks.

What Happened

Christina has continued to work successfully with remote supports. Although she has fewer tasks now, she does them well. In fact, Christina has become so proficient in certain tasks that she was asked to train newer workers. She also picks up extra work shifts when she can.  

Christina’s job coach continues to check in before and after every shift to make sure she completes tasks and communicates well with co-workers. The remote supports have given her a sense of security as well as independence.  

Christina makes a significant impact at the hospital. In a time of stress, her presence is appreciated and valued by her supervisors and fellow employees. She is proud to be an essential employee working alongside her coworkers at the hospital. “I love the fact I’ve been remotely supported because I love my job so much,” she says.

Lessons Learned

  • Be innovative. Prior to COVID-19, CHS had already pursued the purchase of devices for remote supports. This forward thinking meant they had the technology on hand and were ready when the crisis hit.
  • Build strong partnerships and trust. The strong relationship between CHS and county boards enabled them to purchase the devices. The relationship between Christina and her job coach gave Christina confidence that remote supports would work. Hospital leadership trusted CHS to help with challenges on the job, so they were willing to hire Christina and count on her during the pandemic.   
  • Continue to leverage remote supports even after COVID-19. Remote supports may need to replace in-person supports in other situations, and may help individuals develop more independence and competence at work.

For more information, contact Kimberly Anderson: kanderson@chs-mo.org.  

Center for Human Services Headquarters
1500 Ewing Drive
Sedalia, MO 65301
Phone: 660-826-4400

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