Sydney Fochler

Sydney Fochler: Internship Spotlight

Sydney Fochler shares experiences from her semester interning at Nason Hospital.

Hands-on learning. A foot in the door. Real-world experience. Whatever you hope to gain from an internship, they are invaluable opportunities that help prepare you for the workforce. Sydney Fochler shares experiences from her semester interning at Nason Hospital.

Sydney Fochler
Biology major
Fall 2016 internship at Nason Hospital Laboratory, Roaring Spring, PA

I was drawn to doing an internship at Nason Hospital because it’s private and small and offered me a great opportunity to work with and learn from the medical technicians, as well as get lab experience. I worked a total of ten hours a week, and it was all very hands-on.

I was able to do a lot of the duties that the medical technologists and technicians do, like performing tests on patient samples and bacterial cultures. I tested for MRSA in many patient throat samples and assisted in the diagnoses of urinary tract infections. I spent some time with phlebotomists when they were drawing blood, and I watched lab technicians do thyroid biopsies. I saw an amputated leg from a diabetes patient, and I shadowed a pathologist a good amount, too. I was with him when he cut into a tumor from a woman’s breast. He had me take a look at it, and together we diagnosed melanoma. I also learned how to gross organs with him, which means, for example, if someone were to have their gallbladder removed, the pathologist will cut into it to look for any problems or cancer. Placentas are often sent down after a birth to check for things like infections. I was able to do a gross of one on my own, and that was fun for me.

I want to be a forensic lab technician, so one of the things this internship helped me with is getting a proper mindset. I learned first-hand how I will have to put aside my emotions to do my job well and in an unbiased way. One placenta came down to the lab from a miscarriage and I saw a 14-week-old fetus in it, so that experience was very sad. But the pathologist helped me think of it clinically, in terms of finding out what the problem may have been and figuring out if there was any way to keep it from happening to the woman again. That was helpful to me.

I really liked that the supervisors at Nason allowed me to branch out and work with lab technicians, too. I was even allowed to fill in one day. It really helped bring it all together for me: how to act and work in a professional lab; how to record lab results; how to make sure everything is clean and that you're not cross-contaminating; and also how to communicate in a hospital setting.

The whole internship incorporated things I have learned in my classes here at Penn State Altoona. I could use techniques and knowledge from those classes to fulfill a task. For example, in my microbiology course, I learned how to put bacteria on a plate, while in biology, I learned how to look at it under a microscope and analyze it. At Nason, it was all one big process that I could do, and it was all tangible.

Having such a hands-on experience at my internship fortified my liking of lab work and made me excited for my future in it. I think it was a good resume builder and stepping-stone. It showed me some of the different paths I can take within my career, and I definitely feel prepared for it.

I was able to make a lot of connections that may help me land a job. The lab director at Nason is a great reference for me, and she said I could keep in contact. Even the pathologist said if I wanted to go to medical school, I could use him as a reference. I feel that I made good professional and personal relationships during my time there, and that was what I was looking for - a nice, quaint place where I could do what I wanted, learn, be myself, and make good connections.

I think internships teach you a lot about putting yourself out there, how to ask for the things you need and want to succeed. I’ve become a stronger person because of this opportunity. I’ve seen emotionally trying things and have had to step out of my comfort zone many times, but I believe these experiences are what helped me to grow as a person. In addition to these personal benefits, I learned what it means to work as a team and remain disciplined and focused when conducting emotionally or mentally difficult tasks. My time at Nason taught me a lot about independence, and that will be a huge asset to me in my medical career.

To learn more about internships, please contact Tom Shaffer, academic internship coordinator, at or 814-949-5789.