Attendees learn about operating room jobs at Mayo Clinic

Nov. 5—ROCHESTER — Prepping patients, handling surgical instruments and keeping patients safe by keeping everything in the operating room safe and sterile: A hands-on experience of jobs in an operating room were on display Saturday at Mayo Clinic's Saint Marys campus.

The goal was to show people — about a hundred or so — what kinds of jobs are available in an operating room.

"Not a lot of people, unless you've unless you've spent some time in our space, are aware of all of the careers," said Amber Wirkus, vice chair of nursing for surgical services at Mayo Clinic. "And because we have roles that are entry level to degree required, our audience while primarily high school students, we did offer it up to others that might just be interested in learning more about our careers within surgery."

On a surgery team, there is a surgeon and an assistant, and a nurse. But other jobs include operating room technologists, heath unit coordinators and sterile processing technologists. All these jobs are important when it comes to prepping the patient and the operating room for a surgical procedure.

About 1,100 people work together to keep Mayo Clinic's 120 operating rooms running safely, Wirkus said.

Saturday, three sessions were held where attendees were then split into three groups to watch, touch and help out in Mayo Clinic's mock operating rooms to see how patients and equipment were handled.

Molly Johnson plans to graduate with a nursing degree in the spring from RCTC. She said working in an operating room is a path she'd love to take in her career.

"So, I'm really interested in an RN job within the surgical services," Johnson said. "So kind of just seeing what what's out there and my opportunities?"

Saturday, she took time to listen, ask questions and get her hands on some of the equipment in this learning environment.

"It's nice to get hands-on experience," she said. "I've always kind of been fascinated with surgery as I've grown up, and I've had a few surgeries myself, and it's just kind of fascinating to me, and I really enjoy potentially working in that field."

She said she liked to see how the different team members would work together to make sure the procedure went smoothly.

While still in high school, Abhibav Koppulu works as an intern at Mayo Clinic on a team that studies brain aneurysms. Koppulu hopes to double major in biomedical engineering and neuroscience with a goal of becoming a neurosurgeon one day.

He said he was interested to see how the whole patient interaction goes with the surgeon and the whole team behind them.

Seeing how things are done at Mayo Clinic, he said, made for a special experience because of Mayo's status in the medical field.

Area where he said he learned something new was when it comes to sterilization of surgical equipment.

"There's multiple steps and multiple indicators just to verify every single step of patient care is taken to such great lengths," Koppulu said. "All these preventative measures just to keep the patient safe."

Blessing Mobwano said he came to learn about some of the career opportunities and became interested in the sterile processing technologist job.

He will consider the job when he registers for classes next semester at South Central College in Faribault.

Wirkus said workers left health care jobs during and immediately after the COVID-19 pandemic, so Mayo Clinic's surgery department held the first of these recruiting sessions last spring, and plans to hold sessions twice a year going forward.

"Our staff are our best recruiters, right," Wirkus said. "And so while the intent is to give students or other individuals an opportunity to see what goes on in our spaces, it also allows us, our staff, the opportunity to highlight the great work that they do every day. And through that, of course, they're going to recruit their future colleagues."

Wirkus said someone who can work in a team is the main trait Mayo is looking for, and after that they can teach needed skills. And the jobs available range from requiring college degrees to simply high school diplomas.

Out of the 100 or so who showed up Saturday, Wirkus said any new employees to their staff would be a plus.

"I think any that we could gain that came in undecided or unaware of what a career in surgery might look like, if we can spark the interest in a handful that were previously undecided. I think we'll call that a win," she said.