A common thread connects almost all patient visits at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. Whether at a quick clinic appointment or in the hospital, you'll see, wear, touch or lie on something a dedicated team of 80 staff members takes great pride in providing.
This team is at the heart of Linen Services, which is part of Linen and Central Services.
Headquartered in Northwest Rochester, the linen technicians, transporters and handlers distribute more than 55,000 blankets, sheets, slings, lab coats, surgical gowns and many other items in the hospital and clinical settings on Mayo's downtown and Saint Marys Campus each day.
The Rochester team also supplies linens to many Mayo Clinic Health System locations and Mayo Clinic Square in Minneapolis.
In addition, the 70,000-square-foot building Linen Services calls home holds reserve linens for all of Mayo's locations across the Midwest — enough to cover eight to 10 days should there be a catastrophic failure at Textile Care Services, the company Mayo contracts to wash and fold linens.
On a typical day, the company delivers eight to nine truckloads of blue bins to Linen Services for distribution.
As part of quality control, all of the bins from Textile Care Services are weighed to ensure Mayo receives the number of linens posted on the bin. Above, Curtis Moen checks the weight of a bin before it moves to the main floor. That's where linen technicians transfer the freshly washed and folded linens to Mayo carts.
Chealy Doung is a linen transporter, but on this day, he fills in and restocks a Mayo cart with an assortment of linens. Once the cart is full, it will make its way to the loading dock, where linen handlers stage all carts before they are loaded onto trucks.
A typical Mayo cart carries around 15 types of linen — about 200 items on average. It takes about 16 minutes to restock a cart before it's ready for transport. At any time, 360 carts are on location in Mayo buildings, while 360 sister carts are being restocked at the Linen Services facility.
This baby linen cart holds a collection of pediatric gowns, diapers, receiving blankets, bibs and other items. Linen technicians pick specific amounts to fill the carts needed on nursing floors.
But not all linens are on a cart-to-cart journey. Some items make a detour through dedicated rooms for closer inspection.
Surgical gowns — like the one Cassandra Gonzalez has unfolded above — undergo a close inspection for any signs of wear and tear. Gonzalez marks trouble spots with a black marker to identify areas that will be patched later.
Gonzalez and two colleagues inspect more than 1,000 gowns each day. If a gown shows too many rips or tears, it is removed from circulation. Typically, no item in circulation is more than three or four months old.
Gonzalez's job includes barrier testing, which determines whether a surgical gown will adequately protect staff from bodily fluids and other harmful substances during a procedure. As part of this process, Gonzalez uses a pressure device that pushes distilled water through the garment.
If water beads appear at a pressure of less than 0.75 pounds per square inch, the test fails, and the surgical gown is taken out of circulation. Four gowns from each blue bin are tested as a representative sample.
"Our team is fantastic and well-seasoned, says Joe Folken, who supervised Linen and Central Services teams until July, when he took a position in Language Services. "If there is an issue with the linen, they can spot it right away. They take pride in presenting linen to our customers and patients."
Meanwhile, in the sling room, Elyse Staley — who no longer works at Mayo — and Mary Nichols, a linen technician, inspect, fold and wrap slings to prepare them to be placed on carts. Each sling is labeled to identify its size and includes the inspector's signature.
Once the carts have been filled and staged, they make the short trip to the Saint Marys Campus and downtown facilities aboard custom trucks driven by linen handlers like Brian L. Nelson. Each truck holds 17 carts.
On weekdays, Nelson and six other drivers deliver nine truckloads of linen to the Saint Marys Campus, six to the Methodist Campus, four to other downtown buildings, and one to outlying clinics.
At the Saint Marys Campus loading dock, Nelson wheels each cart off his truck and then lines up used cards to transport them back to the Linen Services facility for restocking.
Linen handlers, like Dustin Meyers, take over and transport each linen cart to its respective nursing floor. He also gathers used carts and returns them to the loading dock, where they'll return to the Linen Services facility.
Tyler Keller, an assistant supervisor in Linen Services, has much praise for his team.
"The linen team does amazing work," Keller says. "From the techs to the transporters, handlers and drivers, they continue to work as a cohesive unit to supply departments across Mayo."
He adds that the team is extremely self-sufficient and can complete tasks with little direction.
The News Center Team would be remiss if this look behind the scenes of Linen Services ignored the good work Joan Garmers — Mayo's lone seamstress — has masterfully done for almost 40 years.
When she isn't creating custom pieces that colleagues request for patients or for research studies, Garmers repairs linens and attaches labels to lab coats and other pieces.
Keller says that with as many items Garmers handles each day — and for as long as she has been on the job — chances are the label on any given item in circulation today was affixed by her.
You also can find her delivering linen and instruments throughout the downtown campus.
Speaking of instruments, the News Center team also recently went behind the scenes at Central Services, where instruments and other equipment undergo a detailed cleaning process before returning to floors.