Pumpkinectomy: Mr. Jack O. Lantern undergoes surgery at the hands of students

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Students learned from professionals about how they found their careers and what their role in the OR entails.  Photo by Julia Arenstam

Students learned from professionals about how they found their careers and what their role in the OR entails.
Photo by Julia Arenstam

Donning their surgical gowns, health science II students at Pearl River Central High School put their first patient under the knife in a mock surgery at Highland Community Hospital.

Health science teacher Jennifer Spence, RN, has led her senior students in the procedure for three years, giving them a rare glimpse inside a surgical room, she said.

They nervously gathered into the surgical wing of the hospital, covering their scrubs with sanitary gowns, stretching plastic gloves over their hands and covering their hair and shoes with caps.

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The operating room staff at the hospital went through the details of each pre-op procedure including teaching the assigned surgeons how to properly scrub their hands and arms before entering the operating room.

Before operation day, students were assigned roles, which they had to research extensively and present to the class, Spence said.

As the patient, Mr. Jack O. Lantern, was wheeled into the operating room for his “Pumpkinectomy,” the students stood side-by-side with their corresponding healthcare professionals.

“This is a great educational experience for high school seniors looking for education in life to pursue a career in medicine,” Spence said.

As part of their research, the students researched nearby colleges offering programs in their branch of healthcare, she said.

Some of the students are still deciding which role, if any, they are interested in a career, Spence said.

This exercise allows them to see what happens in the OR and “who participates in the care of that patient,” she said.

“We are very fortunate to have this partnership with the hospital to work with the students,” Kelli Beech, career and technical education director at Pearl River County School District, said.

Some of their students have gone on to pursue medical careers at Pearl River Community College, William Carey University, the University of Southern Mississippi and more, Beech said.

She said an estimated 90 percent of students that take the health science classes will work in the healthcare field.

General surgeon at Highland Community Hospital, Dr. Pouya Dastorui, led the students during the procedure, playing a more secondary role than he’s used to.

“I’ve been in their shoes,” he said. “I try to give them a lot of encouragement.”

Dastouri said he thinks this program is beneficial to the students because it can help them decide what path to take.

“It was an eye-opening experience,” Kaya Ryan, a senior at PRC said who filled the role of an OR circulating nurse. “I’ve never even thought about operating.”

Dastouri and Spence said this happens to students quite often; once they begin working in an area they may decide they don’t like it and want to try something else.

“There are so many things you can’t read in a book and can’t research,” Ryan said. “You have to experience differences with different careers.”

When the students were finished with surgery, they were ready to do it again, Spence said.

One student told Spence, “she felt like the OR team there cared about her future,” she said. “They not only were there just standing side-by-side, they explained and talked to the students about how they got there.”

The students will graduate in May and many of them said they are planning to pursue careers in the medical field.

“We’re on the verge of the future of healthcare,” Spence said, that’s why it’s so important for them to see the process firsthand.

About Julia Arenstam

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