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'm a laboratory technologist resource coordinator. Like everyone in my unit, I have previous laboratory experience. Now I'm in a role where I coordinate different activities for Mayo Clinic Laboratories testing. I've been in it for 3 ½ years.
What was your day-to-day job like before COVID-19?
Pre-COVID, my work mainly consisted of providing operational support for Mayo Clinic Laboratories clients and our laboratories within Mayo Clinic’s Department of Laboratory Medicine (DLMP). Everyone on my team is assigned an area of the country to support hospitals and clinics within that territory. Sometimes we're helping with service recovery due to, for example, issues with samples, testing, or reporting. If there are specimen transport delays, we troubleshoot that. We help our clients navigate our website and the test catalog. We're also a second-level customer service support for Mayo Laboratory Inquiry — our 24/7 customer service team. If they receive a question, and they aren't sure where to go or who to turn to, my team is one of their go-tos for anything lab-related.
I support clients in northern Minnesota, as well as North and South Dakota, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Nevada, and Idaho. I used to travel from time to time, pre-pandemic. That was a great experience because I got to see other labs and how they operate. I hope to have that opportunity again once things settle down.
Our other main activity is to support the labs in DLMP, so we're all assigned to specific labs. We are a point-of-contact to represent the lab or field questions. We learn their test catalogs, and we get to know the management and personnel within the laboratory. We become a resource for those labs to Mayo Laboratory Inquiry, and all our clients who send the testing. We are also responsible for making test notifications that are sent out to clients when we have new tests or test changes.
How has your work changed since the pandemic began?
The biggest change has been the switch to working remotely. Our group collaborates so much — that's one of the big reasons our team is so strong and such a good resource — and we've had to find different ways to work together.
Personally, one of my biggest changes was volunteering to cover clients in Minnesota temporarily after one of our coworkers left. That was before COVID hit. I thought I'd be doing that for a couple of months. But with the pandemic, I kept that group for quite a while. When the pandemic started, the state health department and the Minnesota government quickly looked to Mayo Clinic Labs for assistance, and demand for COVID-19 testing exploded. Some of the first groups to have access to COVID-19 tests were our Minnesota clients. My phone was ringing off the hook, and I had emails galore. I had to figure out how to quickly onboard Minnesota hospitals, so they could send COVID-19 testing to us. We had to come up with a quick plan to figure out how to disseminate lab information and make sure we weren't overrunning our labs with too much volume, and we had to work out how we were going to get the samples here. We were the behind-the-scenes operational support to get the samples in the door.
I was involved in COVID-19 with the Minnesota hospitals and clinics first, and then I also got involved in the tribal testing. All the tribal nations in Minnesota receive free COVID-19 PCR testing through Mayo Clinic Laboratories. I worked with a team of people to answer questions and onboard the tribal nations for testing. We also conducted webinars with them to provide education about preventing the spread of COVID-19 and protecting themselves. I still support about a half dozen of those groups. If they have questions about testing, they can contact me. It's been a cool experience to be part of that.
What was the most challenging part of your job in 2020?
The most challenging part has been finding a balance as we're doing all these projects that are coming at us and working remotely. When your office is in your home, it can be hard to find that balance. There have been so many time-sensitive tasks happening in the evenings and on the weekends. We always have to be ready to provide support, and we often have to provide it quickly — many times doing tasks we've never done before.
What’s something inspiring that you’ve seen in your work during the pandemic?
The hard work and the teamwork that I've seen have been absolutely amazing. It motivates me to keep working hard and finding the answer for the next task. I have a quote on my desk from Dr. William Mayo that says, "The ills of today do not cloud the horizon of tomorrow." I look at that quote every day, and it reminds me of the foundation that Mayo Clinic is built on. I know my team can impact and share the Mayo values that we live out every day with our physician and lab partners. When I think about that, and the impact we have on people around the world, I'm inspired. To have the people we have at Mayo Clinic, to do the work that we've done throughout the pandemic, it is truly inspiring, and it makes me proud to work at Mayo Clinic.
What do you find most fulfilling about your work for Mayo Clinic Laboratories?
The most fulfilling is feeling I've made a difference. For example, I've been working on a nursing home project that's providing COVID-19 testing to those facilities across Minnesota. To see a project like that from the beginning, and watch it grow to the point that it has made a difference in the lives of some of the most vulnerable people in the pandemic has been very fulfilling and worthwhile.
More from Mayo Clinic Labs @Work
For the last year, Emily Fernholz’s time has been consumed by COVID-19. But as the pandemic has eased, she’s turned her attention back to the usual business of Mayo’s Clinical Virology/Parasitology Laboratory: testing for virus-, parasite-, and vector-borne diseases.
Shawn Mitchell brings a wealth of laboratory expertise to his role as a senior product manager at Mayo Clinic Laboratories, where he puts his knowledge to work promoting Mayo’s innovative infectious disease testing.
In her role as a laboratory technologist resource coordinator, Amy Nelson has to be prepared to handle whatever questions, concerns or issues come her way from Mayo Clinic Laboratories' clients. That ability to be ready for anything has served her well as her work has shifted and changed during the COVID-19 pandemic.