ST. THOMAS –
A group of surgical technicians and nursing externs on Tuesday met leaders from the Bennie and Martha Benjamin Foundation
, which presented its latest donation to fund the clinical training the young professionals need to serve their community.
“They are the future of your institution,” Foundation Executive Director David Beale said of the Surgical Technician Training Program and Benjamin Nurse Externship Program participants.
Beale and his wife Tina, the Foundation Administrator and Grant Coordinator, gathered in the hospital lobby to present $42,000 for the two programs. They also watched as a plaque was unveiled in honor of the Foundation, which has donated nearly half a million dollars to SRMC since 2006.
Since the Externship Program's inception in 2008, 52 nursing students from the University of the Virgin Islands completed a clinical program that gave them each 320 hours of hands-on experience. Twenty-four of the program's graduates are currently working as Registered Nurses for SRMC.
These include J'Vonne Lorenzo, who thanked the Beales after Tuesday's ceremony.
“I learned so much in the Externship Program,” Lorenzo said. “I worked with an excellent ICU nurse. Every opportunity she had for me to do something, she helped me try it.”
Through the 10-week-long Surgical Technician Training Program, seven individuals – five of whom already worked for SRMC – learned how to serve as full-time operating room technicians. These were positions that SRMC had previously staffed with traveling professionals. This training opportunity, made possible by a partnership with Keiser Career College of Miami Lakes, Fla., will not only save SRMC nearly $231,379.20 in wages each year – it has created a team of long-term, vested staff members who are committed to staying in the community.
One of these is Murie Rabsatt, who up until entering the training program worked as a secretary in SRMC's Operating Unit.
“It's a totally different switch,” said Rabsatt, a lifelong St. Thomas resident and 1997 graduate of Charlotte Amalie High School. “I love helping the people.”
Her fellow program participant and former high school classmate, Nerissa Gabriel, said she had been working in the Labor and Delivery Unit as a CNA when she heard about the program.
“I figured that was a growing opportunity for me, and I took advantage of it,” Gabriel said.
Former graphic designer and All Saints Cathedral School graduate Deenica Laplace, 25, said she found out about the training program when she came into Schneider Hospital to have a baby.
“On my way into labor, I saw a bulletin about the program,” Laplace said. “I approached them and got in.”
Claude A. “Bennie” Benjamin was a successful musician, active humanitarian and native of St. Croix who, along with his wife Martha, pledged his fortune to enhancing the provision of health care services in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Nearly 20 years later, the Benjamin Foundation is still fostering the professional development of area residents such as Rabsatt, Gabriel and Laplace, said MSN/MBA Cynthia Rice, Nurse Educator at SRMC.
“It not only facilitates their learning, but it obviously acts as a recruitment tool,” Rice said. “By the time they make it through the programs, they very much feel a part of the organization and want to stay.”