A summer spent in the Mayo Clinic’s cardiac operating room helped Cami Roehrs prepare for a career in nursing. It also prepared her to celebrate life’s little things.
The senior nursing major from Hampton, Neb., already had a good collection of nursing experiences: a clinical at Madonna Rehabilitation Hospital, a psychiatric clinical at Bryan Medical Center, and work experiences on the orthopedic and neurology floors at CHI Health St. Elizabeth.
A 10-week nursing externship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn., has now been added to her resume.
Roehrs’s interest in the Mayo Clinic externship came via a recommendation from recent NWU graduate Katie Noble, a registered nurse in the cardiac surgical progressive care unit at the Mayo Clinic.
“She thought I would make a good candidate,” Roehrs recalled. “I thought it was a long shot, but decided to apply on a whim.”
Over 1,000 applicants across the country applied; only 53 were selected. Roehrs was the only extern accepted from Nebraska.
“I recall thinking, is it possible they emailed the wrong Cami?” she asked.
Roehrs credits her academic rigor and support at Nebraska Wesleyan, pointing to help from the Career Center and her academic advisor along with her leadership experiences with NWU’s Student Nurses Association and the Nebraska State Student Nurses Association.
Especially important to Roehrs was the opportunity to gain experience at a hospital with impressive recognition: “Best Hospital in the Nation” for three consecutive years and “Most Attractive Employer” for 13 consecutive years.”
“Mayo’s pride in where they work and in what they do is a common trait among all employees,” she said. “The values remain true to the vision of the founders – the needs of the patient come first.
“At Mayo, I was not seen as just a student intern,” she continued. “I was immersed in a culture of teamwork, professionalism, mutual respect, and most importantly, a life-changing experience.”
Roehrs arrived at Mayo Clinic where she worked alongside a circulating nurse in the cardiac operating room. She assessed patients prior to their procedures, served as a patient advocate and monitored patients’ safety to ensure no aspect of care was missed during surgery. Roehrs documented supplies and procedures, assisted with hemodynamic monitoring, and communicated with the consulting surgeon, fellow, resident, anesthesia team, surgical technician, and surgical assistant. She also had the opportunity to scrub in on cardiac cases where she worked directly with the surgeon and surgical technician.
“Being in the cardiac OR exposed me to a specialty of nursing that most nurses have not explored, and the experiences I had were second to none,” she said. “I had the opportunity to assist in rare cases and innovative techniques I may never see again in my career.”
Roehrs’ experience did not end in the cardiac operating wing. The program gave all externs opportunities to work and observe in other units of interest. Roehrs observed in the neonatal intensive care unit which included floor experience and two cesarean sections; pediatric cardiac surgical intensive care unit, trauma intensive care unit, neurological intensive care unit, general surgery, and a general care floor.
Without this opportunity, Roehrs said she might have missed out on a powerful life lesson: the little things are also big things.
During her time in the cardiac operating room, Roehrs assisted in a heart transplant supplied by a donor through LifeSource, an organ donation organization that helps families with the organ donation process. The donor’s family wrote a letter to the operating team about their loved one’s life.
“As we prepared to bring up the new heart to the recipient, the entire surgical team initiated a pause while the nurse read the family’s note about the donor,” Roehrs recalled. “The nurse read about how the donor had the prettiest brown eyes, loved being outside, and would want this person to have their heart. This moment was incredibly powerful — everyone took a step back from this medical miracle to share a moment of silence for the donor and the donor’s family. The little things are the most impactful.”
The experience also taught Roehrs to seek out a work environment that lives up to its mission and values.
“I hope to incorporate Mayo’s mission and values – the needs of the patient come first — into every patient encounter and setting I work in and to empower those around me and leave a legacy behind for others.”
Roehrs will graduate in May and will apply for jobs in an intensive care unit. She will also apply to graduate school to pursue a doctorate in nursing anesthesia to practice as a certified nurse anesthetist.
“The program was everything I hoped it would be and I am convinced I have been prepared for an exceptional nursing career,” she said. “Wherever I am called to serve, I will always be a Mayo-trained nurse and people will notice there is something different about me – something that sets me apart from the rest.”
—Story by Danielle Anderson, public relations intern.