Aeryck Christianson, a food service employee at Mercy Hospital Springfield, said the job is a good fit for him. Christianson, who is on the autism spectrum, said he had been given limited roles by previous employers. (Mercy photo)

When someone receives care at a hospital, it is validating to see an employee who looks like them and has gone through similar challenges on a staff of health care workers, said Ashley McCasland, a diversity and inclusion recruiter with Mercy.

On Friday, Oct. 21, Mercy Hospital Springfield is hosting a recruiting event tailored to people with disabilities in an effort to see if a position is right for them at one of the area’s largest employers. 

Similar recruiting events are being held across the Mercy network during October, National Disability Employee Awareness Month. 

“Promoting an inclusive work environment, that really goes along with our Mercy values,” she said. “It promotes empathy in our workplace, and basically, it shows that we are inclusive — that when someone comes in as a patient, they see people that look like themselves.”

McCasland said the roles that may be best for candidates with disabilities do not fit in confined boxes that recruiters have often believed they did. McCasland, who hires for Mercy’s supply chain teams, said she has heard, for example, that people with autism are suited for roles in that area because they are adept at putting things in order and can also be challenged by changes to routine.

“And that’s not always the truth,” she said. 

At Mercy Hospital Springfield, she said, Aeryck Christianson is one example of a team member who does not fit in a perceived box. 

Christianson works in food services at the hospital, where he works directly with patients, visitors and other staff members. In a news release, Christianson said his previous job was a confining one. 

“I think they saw me as someone who was a bit different, and not in a good way,” Christianson said. “They weren’t unreasonable, but they kept me doing the same thing for a long time. I didn’t see myself moving up there.”

While interviewing at Mercy, he said, he felt comfortable discussing his disability during the hiring process. McCasland said providing a welcoming environment for prospective Mercy employees with disabilities is a key element of the job fair on Friday. 

Mercy inclusive interview event

Friday, Oct. 21, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

McCauley Conference Center at Mercy Hospital Springfield, 1235 E. Cherokee St.

Register online for an interview time.

“With individuals with disabilities, they are some of the most innovative and creative people because they have to adapt to living in our world in ways that maybe you and I don’t,” McCasland said. “So someone who maybe is not the best with communication and being able to verbalize the things that they want to say, whether that is due to a neuro processing disorder or severe anxiety, a PowerPoint presentation or visual resume is a great way for them to be able to show how they adapt and overcome those things that maybe you or I don’t even really think about.” 

McCasland said the events took shape during the pandemic when job interviews were often held virtually or by phone, and when Mercy hosted recruiting events like Lunch with a Leader over Zoom. During those events, McCasland said, recruiting leaders had numerous one-on-one opportunities with candidates with disabilities, who expressed interest in positions that best suited their individual skill sets. The Friday job fair seeks to expand on those efforts, she said.  

Christianson encouraged others with disabilities to consider attending the event. 

“I want those who struggle to get into the workplace because of their disability to know that Mercy will be respectful and give them guidance,” he said in a release. “Be confident in yourself that your disability doesn’t determine how good of a person or worker you can be. You have skills and everyone will be happy to have you here.”

Cory Matteson

Cory Matteson moved to Springfield in 2022 to join the team of Daily Citizen journalists and staff eager to launch a local news nonprofit. He returned to the Show-Me State nearly two decades after graduating from the University of Missouri-Columbia. Prior to arriving in Springfield, he worked as a reporter at the Lincoln Journal Star and Casper Star-Tribune. More by Cory Matteson