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.
I have worked at Mayo Clinic for 25 years and in the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology (DLMP) for 12 years. Prior to working in DLMP, I was an administrative assistant at Mayo Medical School (MMS). At MMS, I was part of a self-directed team that performed supervisory tasks. In that role, I enjoyed leading, mentoring, and problem solving. After working at MMS, I applied for a supervisor position in DLMP and accepted the position in 2006. I was a supervisor in Anatomic Pathology and Hematopathology for 11 years.
Currently, I am an operations manager for Mayo Clinic Laboratories Specimen Operations. I've been at Mayo Clinic Laboratories since August 2019. Specimen Operations includes approximately 320 staff performing the preanalytic processing for samples and delivery to the DLMP laboratories. Prior to the pandemic, Specimen Operations received, on average, 35,000 samples a day. Today, the volume has increased to 60,000 samples arriving per day. This volume fluctuates daily. During the pandemic, Specimen Operations had a record day of approximately 93,000 samples total volume for standard work and COVID-19 samples.
I was only at Mayo Clinic Laboratories for about six months before the pandemic struck. I recall the day the pandemic became more serious, and the U.S. began to shut down. We were doing our typical workload, and each day the volume for our standard samples started to reduce. At the same time, the COVID-19 samples began to arrive and increase daily for the next several months. When the first shipment of COVID-19 samples arrived, the Specimen Operations team had to learn processes they had never performed before. The first delivery of COVID-19 samples was approximately 2,000 in volume and had to be entered into the system manually. The Specimen Operations team worked closely with the Hepatitis/HIV Molecular Lab to ensure the samples were test ready.
We had to react quickly to COVID-19 specimens arriving and make decisions real-time. During the pandemic, the Specimen Operations team trained over 320 staff to help perform COVID-19 processing.
Specimen Operations space, number of staff, and management of the samples have definitely changed since the pandemic. The pandemic has had its negative impacts on the world. But as an operation, it has opened up different ways we perform our work. And it has brought our team closer together in how we interact, assist each area, and our willingness to learn all aspects across the operation. Change has been the theme this past year and met with grace.
The most challenging was the unknown and how the operation would be impacted by the pandemic. The specimen volume was unpredictable, which made it very difficult to staff to workload. There were situations where 5,000 COVID-19 samples would arrive on the dock in the middle of the night, and we'd only have 10 people on-site. It was very challenging to react to the needs and plan for them accordingly. Thankfully, as we progressed over several months, measures were put into place to plan for more consistent volume.
Overall, I cannot say enough positive things about the Specimen Operations staff, DLMP staff, contracted staff, and those redeployed that were flexible to meet the needs of the operation at such a demanding time. They all assisted with whatever was needed with a positive attitude. I am very grateful to work with such a great team.
To be honest, the vibe as COVID-19 ramped up was a little unnerving. But, at the same time, it was exciting because we knew we'd look back on what we did, and it would be part of history. We also knew the impact that we were making around the world and helping our patients. The pandemic brought us together as a closer team. One of our supervisors, who had been in the military, introduced us to the concept of "team of one." That became our tagline for communication moving forward.
We've seen a lot more integration within our team during this time. We're no longer in the mindset: "I do this job. You do that job." People are training and learning different areas, so they can assist based on the needs each day. It's been inspiring to see that "team of one" mentality really take hold. I don't see that going away, even after the pandemic is over.
I thrive on being able to make a positive difference, particularly when it comes to efficiency. I enjoy taking on difficult or challenging tasks. If someone says, "There's no way you can do that," that's exactly the situation I want to tackle. And in those situations, I enjoy bringing together a team to collaborate on a solution because I know I can't do those things myself. I can lead. I can be positive and supportive. But I can't do it alone. I enjoy bringing experts to the table and seeing a solution come together. That's probably the most rewarding part of my job: accomplishing things and when I look back on them, I think: "Wow. We did it!"
Before joining Mayo Clinic, Samantha Aldrich worked for a multisite hospital system in Michigan for 10 years. Now, as a regional service representative for Mayo Clinic Laboratories, she serves as a client advocate and works to help send out laboratories improve their operations, services, education, and training.
As a senior principal developer for the brand-new Process Innovation Through Automation Laboratory, Brian Dukek helps labs throughout the Department of Laboratory Medicine and Pathology evaluate new automation tools and streamline automation workflows.