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 am one of four technical publications specialists at Mayo Clinic Laboratories. I’ve been in this role for about 21 years. The work has evolved so much during that time. It used to be a very hands-on, manual process with everything edited on paper. Once we switched to digital systems, everything became much more streamlined. There's been a lot of changes over the years, but I’ve always enjoyed it.
About 90% of what we do is review the data housed in the laboratory test catalog. Every test done through Mayo Clinic Laboratories has a test description, and they need to be reviewed yearly. The descriptions contain a lot of pertinent data that is used by regulatory agencies, laboratorians, and health care providers. The information helps guide people on how to order our tests. So if you go into the doctor, and they’re trying to figure out what illness you have, they often look up these test descriptions to decide which tests to order and how to order them.
The laboratory staff maintain the descriptions and send them to us for review on a regular basis. We format the information and standardize the content. We review it top to bottom — from the published name to the reference value to the regulatory information and all the other details.
We also take care of the joint test catalogs for our MCL clients. There are approximately 175 of these. The clients are mainly in the driver’s seat and manage the content. We help and train them on those catalogs.
I’ve been at Mayo Clinic for many years and previously worked in patient care areas. I know how important it is to have clear, concise, accurate information about when and how to do these tests. Publications serves a key purpose in communicating test information to health care providers and laboratorians — all in the hopes that they can quickly and easily find what testing is needed for their patients, and use that information to help diagnose them.
Most people probably aren’t aware that, in the past several years, Publications has managed, reviewed, and updated the special instruction sheets, test request forms, and patient information documents that are attached to the tests. There are many background forms involved in testing, and we work with the laboratories to manage and keep them updated. That used to be done by a separate entity, but we’ve taken it underneath our wing, so we keep them all in line and consistent with the test reviews and write-ups.
We also produce test algorithms — picture flow charts — that describe the reason for testing, and then show how testing is performed, or they help with test interpretation or aid in diagnosing patients. In many cases, physicians don’t know exactly what’s wrong with a patient. That’s why they are ordering tests. They may order a cascade where one test is performed, and then, depending on the results, another test may be done based on the algorithm. That way, the physicians don’t have to decide ahead of time each individual test to order. They can order that cascade and the results determine which comes next. We work with Mayo Clinic physicians and laboratorians to develop these.
Balancing the workload and prioritizing the tasks can be challenging, especially last year. Early in the pandemic, when COVID started, the labs were just stellar, developing new COVID tests so quickly, and we had to get the test information written, edited, added to the system, and ready to go immediately — sometimes within an hour or two of receiving the request. That was all-hands-on-deck for us. When we got those requests, everything else stopped. That was definitely a challenge. In normal times, those kind of emergency situations don’t happen frequently, but managing the workload is key.
I enjoy doing the work I do. For me, it’s a very good job fit. I previously worked in phlebotomy, in the blood gas STAT lab, and other patient areas. This is a step back from that face-to-face patient interaction, but I still feel I’m contributing. Making sure the information we publish is appropriate and correct is important. I enjoy that and knowing that we’re keeping things organized and helping Mayo Clinic Labs to run smoothly. It’s good to see things come together.
I’m retiring in December. Looking back, I’ve really enjoyed my career here at Mayo Clinic. I’ve been in the hospital. I’ve been in the OR. I’ve been in the labs. And now in this job, I’ve worked remotely, too. Through all the different roles, I’ve loved it. I’ve always enjoyed the people I’ve worked with, and I’m proud to have worked for Mayo Clinic for 40-plus years.
More than 17 years ago, Michael Goard started his career at Mayo Clinic in Specimen Operations. Today, he takes great pride in his role as a field service manager working with clients and making a difference for our patients.
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.