By MIKE REUTHER
Shion Harrison wants to help people and that's a big reason she decided to study to become a physician assistant.
Harrison, 22, of Williamsport, was among more than two dozen Pennsylvania College of Technology physician assistant students recently getting some hands-on experience in aspects of the job they will one day be doing.
They were able to rub shoulders with Evangelical Community Hospital surgeons for preliminaries in suturing, knot tying and laparoscopic surgery.
"It's nice to get hands-on experience," Harrison said. "It's nice to move out of theory."
The students are preparing for their senior year of classes, and up until this point have been stuck in classrooms.
"They do clinical in their senior year," said Jen Huff, a clinical operations assistant. "This is their first time with actual physicians."
Students started out the two-hour training watching a video about proper scrubbing for surgery.
They also received a primer on surgical attire including with regard to masks and proper covering.
Infections are among the leading cause of deaths in hospitals.
"It's an excellent opportunity for them," said Penn College Physician Assistant Instructor Holly Wandell.
The highlight of the day's training, she said, is probably the laparoscopic surgery with students given the chance to work surgical instruments.
Laparoscopic is a specialized technique for performing surgery in which several small incisions are used on a patient. Tubular instruments known as trochars are inserted in each incision.
Special cameras, or laparoscopes, are passed through the trochars during the procedure. The images from the laparoscope appear on a monitor allowing the surgeon to perform the operation.
Students did not work on real patients, of course, but got a sense of what the procedure is all about by use of a laparoscopic surgery simulator.
Overall, Wandell said the training gave the students a chance to better understand what their jobs will entail.
"They are very weary of being in the classroom," she said.
A physician assistant is a medical professional who works with a doctor. They graduate from accredited educational programs and are nationally certified and state-licensed to practice medicine with the supervision of a physician.
They perform physical examinations, diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret lab tests, perform procedures, assist in surgery, provide patient education and counseling and make rounds in hospitals and nursing homes, according to the American Academy of Physician Assistants. In the U.S. they are allowed to practice and prescribe medications.
Some of the Penn College students include the non-traditional older students who have held other jobs in their lives.
The job of physician assistant, officials say, presents various career opportunities.
Hawison, for one, said she's not sure what exactly what health care speciality she wants to eventually pursue.
But the two-hour training session with Evangelical physicians likely got many of the students at least thinking in what direction they want to go.
"It's a great learning experience," said Shannon Synoracki, a Penn College student from Williamsport.