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The scoop on poop

Warren County Career Center students get hands dirty in less-than-sterile conditions

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Warren County Career Center Health and Medical Assisting student Jayna Sorensen makes a face as she picks up simulated feces representing a patient who has intestinal helminths — a type of parasitic worm. Students were not initially told the specimens were simulated.

People in medical professions might get to work in sterile environments, but that doesn’t mean they won’t get their hands dirty.

Students in the Warren County Career Center Health and Medical Assisting program got to practice working with less than sterile materials on Friday.

Those students had to “closely examine” stool samples.

Yep. They were digging around in poop.

And not just any poop. These particular samples were indicative of digestive disorders.

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Warren County Career Center Health and Medical Assisting student Sheanna Anderson searches online for information in order to make a diagnosis based solely on a stool sample.

They were varied and… atypical.

Working individually, and wearing appropriate personal protective equipment, students had to examine each of six samples. They were expected to be cautious of contaminating other samples, work surfaces, and themselves. Teacher Kylie Harris instructed students to change gloves and wash hands after each sample.

When a student said she would have to wash her hands many times, Harris said that’s how the profession goes.

She also encouraged students to examine the samples closely.

The consistencies, shapes, and colors varied.

Times Observer photo by Brian Ferry Warren County Career Center Health and Medical Assisting student Kevin Walls makes observations about simulated feces representing a patient who has intestinal helminths — a type of parasitic worm.

One sample consisted of half-inch spheres. Students who used their fingers to examine them found them to be very hard. Some students used tongue depressors or other tools for their examinations. Emily Kramer defended her use of tongue depressors at one station saying, “I’m feeling what each part feels like, if it’s soft or hard. You can feel each clump.”

One sample was a shiny gray color. Jaelyn Mohney described it as “very thick, silver, stretchy, with chunks.”

After the students made their observations, they had to try to diagnose the malady the donor was suffering from. They were allowed to utilize any sources in the room, including the internet.

The winner of the lesson — the one with the best diagnoses — won a multi-colored rubber poop emoji.

Harris provided tips for the students to help them when faced with unpleasant smells in their work, but the classroom did not smell to a high degree on Friday.

Part way through the experience, students started to suspect that their samples were not really stools.

Those willing to smell them found some to be somewhat pleasant.

The huge pile of intestinal herminths — worms — looked a little too much like spaghetti and smelled like cocoa.

The cherry jelly and chocolate pudding made for a nasty-looking stool, but smelled like dessert.

With one exception, all of the samples were made of food products — depending on one’s thoughts on dog food and coffee grounds.

The silvery sample was not. It was commercial slime and it was intended to represent liver dysfunction.

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