Rita Baird

Mayo Clinic Labs @Work

Thousands of people in hundreds of different roles work at Mayo Clinic Laboratories. Mayo Clinic Labs @Work offers a glimpse behind the scenes into this busy reference laboratory, featuring staff from throughout the organization talking about what they do and why they do it.


What’s your role at Mayo Clinic Laboratories, and how long have you been in it?

I am a regional service representative, and I've been in this role for 7 years.


What was your day-to-day job like before COVID-19?

As a regional service representative for clients who use Mayo Clinic Laboratories (MCL) as their reference lab, my territory includes southern Minnesota and all of Iowa, with more than 40 clients in that area. If we weren't living with COVID, I'd be out on the road doing on-site visits with clients, where I work closely with client lab managers and send-out departments. During visits, I introduce new resources that are available on our website, discuss new tests, provide training and support, and serve as a resource for any operational questions or feedback. We look at our role as service representatives as being the face of MCL to the clients, and we also advocate for the client within MCL.


How has your work changed since the pandemic began?

My work has changed quite a bit. First, I'm not traveling. For the clients I was servicing prior to COVID, I'm still their service representative, but now we meet via Zoom or Web-Ex, as well as communicate via phone and email.

Second, I now work with other clients that have approached Mayo Clinic Labs for COVID testing. Most are places that typically didn’t previously use Mayo Clinic Labs, like college and university student health departments and long-term care facilities. When they reach out to us, we set up an account for them. Then we get them the supplies they need to collect samples, train them on an electronic ordering and resulting system called MayoLINK, and work with Global Logistics for a courier to deliver the samples.

“Travel was a big part of my day prior to COVID. Normally, I would drive 24,000 miles a year for work travel to client visits. This year I had about 4,300 work miles with almost 90% of that in the first quarter.”

The initiative to test residents and staff at long-term care facilities was one that Governor Walz made a priority, so we started that work very quickly. When that began, we had to shepherd them through the process with significantly more support than we'd typically provide clients because it had to happen rapidly. Over time, processes have improved, and we trained many of those facilities to be independent and work more like a standard client. But at the beginning, it was a lot of support to get them up and running. I'm one member of a large team working on that project.


What was the most challenging part of your job in 2020?

Trying to keep up with the sheer number of questions, along with setting up new clients who wanted to start working with MCL, as well as coordinating all the moving pieces that go with that, was a significant challenge. Setting realistic expectations was sometimes tricky, too. We had potential clients call wanting to send samples the next day. But we had to set everything up first, and that doesn't happen in one day. It can usually happen within three days, though. We had to carefully set expectations and reassure them we could meet their needs.

Thinking over the last 10 months, there were days where everything flowed well and went smoothly. Then there were days that would be extremely overwhelming. Questions were coming in fast, and you're trying to troubleshoot problems, and you have to pull in others for help. It was almost like a rollercoaster ride. Some days you could catch your breath. Other days, you were hanging on, doing your very best amid a lot of demands.


What’s something inspiring that you’ve seen in your work during the pandemic?

The tremendous amount of teamwork, commitment and effort by multiple MCL departments put into everything to make things go well — as well as leadership support from all levels — making a commitment to the testing and making it happen.

Something that kept me going was gratitude received on a regular basis. Clients would say, "Thank you. We don't know what we would have done without you." Leadership saying, "I know this is hard, but the work you're doing is saving lives." Those sorts of uplifting, affirming messages were enough to help me keep going. And remembering that what we're doing expands far beyond us out into the world — almost beyond our imaginings — is deeply fulfilling. This is the kind of thing most people in health care want to do. We want to make a difference. We are making a difference. The laboratorians are usually in the background, but we do make a huge impact on patient care.


You're retiring soon. Looking back on your career at Mayo Clinic Labs, what have you enjoyed most about your work?

I've worked for Mayo Clinic for 12 years, and I'm retiring in March. I've really enjoyed being a resource to others. This role, in particular, has helped me to do that. I feel a lot of satisfaction answering questions, making things better, and representing Mayo Clinic well to the people I meet, as well as representing clients to MCL. It's truly been an honor to do that work and to be that representative — really more than I can say.

I'm so thankful for my career at Mayo. It's a great organization with great leadership, and I've worked with a wonderful group of people. I'm thankful for all of it.

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Tracy Will

Tracy Will is a senior marketing specialist at Mayo Clinic Laboratories where she covers innovation, specialty testing, and advances in laboratory medicine. Tracy has worked at Mayo Clinic since 2016.