Bowl full of bones

By Kathleen Herring

   “When they saw off part of a bone they drop it in a bowl and let me look at it – it’s great!”  Junior Biology major Logan Parker excitedly recounts his first experience watching a knee replacement surgery from inside the Operating Room at Rockingham Memorial Hospital. Parker, who hopes to pursue a Master’s degree in a Physician’s Assistant program after he graduates, is currently completing an internship with the hospital as part of his career planning process.

   Parker, who calls himself “a person of trial and error,” believes that the best way to establish a career path is to directly experience the alternatives. While most students interested in a medical career would choose to shadow a doctor, Parker chose to shadow a P.A. because he knows that is what he wants to do with his life. The internship program is available for course credit to all juniors and seniors and is one of the best ways to accrue free job training and experience before graduation.

   Excitement best describes Parker’s explanation of the internship experience so far. While he is frustrated with his inability to directly help his patients beyond talking to them (due to legal concerns), he is able to shadow the P.A. during patient diagnosis and ask questions of patients and staff. Although he is a certified EMT, when it comes to surgeries, “obviously I can’t get anywhere close,” he said. “They have this big sterile field, and I have to stay back.” He is able to observe and ask questions, however, as well as examining the aforementioned bowl full of bone pieces.

   The Operating Room is Parker’s favorite part because “I’ve only seen the inside of the human body in anatomy lab, and those are just old cadavers. They’re already dead. I’d never seen the inside of a living person; to see what’s going on inside of someone’s body.” So far he has experienced a hip replacement and a knee replacement, and during fall break he was in an all-day surgery for the first time.

When asked why he chose to shadow a Physician’s Assistant rather than a doctor, Parker explained the difference between graduate school for a medical field and medical school: “In Med school, you go there and pick one specialty and that’s it. If you change your mind later you have to do it all over again. A P.A. is kind of like a registered nurse; you go in and learn all the specialties… you’re not locked in… you can switch any time you want.”

   One of the most interesting patients Parker interacted with was a lady “who was pregnant and had taken all these pills for her back pain… she had been taking eight extra-strength Tylenol every four hours. Her liver could be shutting down. [It was] unbelievable.” The problem quickly escalated to include her obstetric doctor to check on the health of the baby since this was several times the recommended maximum dosage.

  Parker reflected that “in movies or on TV, when they show an operating room, it’s always really serious. If it’s an emergency surgery, I’m sure it is really serious. But in the kinds of surgeries I’m in, it’s really laid back. When you really know what you’re doing, you know everything about it and you’ve done it so many times, it’s like breathing. You don’t really have to think about it. They’re listening to music in there.” When the new hospital building was built a few years ago, iPod docks were installed in all the operating rooms, a fact which Logan Parker finds almost as exciting as that bowl full of bones.

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