Project Choice, a programme which helps young students with a learning disability find employment, has celebrated the graduation of 14 interns who worked across sites at the Royal Free London.

An event was held at the WAC Arts centre in Hampstead, bringing together the interns and their families, local authorities, staff mentors, tutors, families, and the Project Choice team.

Project Choice is part of the NHS training and development organisation, Health Education England. The specialist college is dedicated to helping young people gain confidence, new skills, and independence.

This year’s students began their journey at our trust in September and have worked alongside staff in departments including audiology, catering, endoscopy and gastroenterology, nuclear medicine, pathology, patient access, therapy services and urology.

Caroline Clarke, RFL group chief executive welcomed the students at WAC arts centre in September 2021

Sam Brown, London area manager for Project Choice, said he was delighted with how far they have come: “Eight of our 14 students have gone on to secure jobs at the Royal Free London. It’s been amazing to watch them grow into key members of our team, and we want to thank everyone who has helped them along the way.”

The students were based at the trust for four days of the week, and their remaining day was spent in college. Their tutors, Mandy and Helen Brown, said: “We can’t wait to see what they do next. It’s been a privilege to see them grow – they can all take on the world now.” 

Kyrone, who was mentored by Nigel Brinkhurst, head chef at the Royal Free Hospital’s private patients unit, is stepping into a full-time role as a chef at the hospital. Zac also worked in our catering department and reflected on his internship at the graduation event: “I have really enjoyed my time here, and I think I’ve come a long way.” 

Project Choice placements offer an enriching experience for both the students and the host departments. Marie Lewis, clinical pathway manager in gastroenterology, mentored Lorell alongside Dorcas Boamah, nutrition clinical nurse specialist. Marie said: “It was such a rewarding experience to see Lorell grow in confidence and flourish at the Royal Free London. Together with the team, we were able to create an environment that brought out Lorell’s innate abilities. We are sorry to see her go and are very proud of her too.”

Equipped with new skills from the internship, Lorell is looking forward to staying at the trust in her new role as an outpatient appointment centre coordinator.

Lorell celebrating with her mentors at the graduation event

The Project Choice team is gearing up for the next round of internships starting on 4 October and would like to hear from staff interested in this opportunity. All mentors and departments are given training to ensure that staff can confidently support their intern. Topics include mentoring, autism awareness and mental health first aid. 

Find out more about Project Choice here.