In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

February 14, 2023

Why I work here: Radiology technologists reflect on how, why they chose Mayo Clinic

By In the Loop

Technologists in the Department of Radiology in Rochester perform more than 2 million exams each year. Hear what some of those staff say about their roles and why they work at Mayo Clinic.

About 80 percent of Mayo Clinic patients require Radiology care. That translates to more than 2 million exams a year. Each exam is performed by a board-certified technologist specially trained to capture images that help physicians diagnose and treat illnesses and injuries.

Below, read about some of the people who capture those images.

A lucky break

Dakota Shoemaker's path to radiology was a painful one.

"When I was 14, I broke the heads off of my tibia and fibula," she says.

Fortunately, the traumatic experience had a happy ending. It led her to her role at Mayo Clinic.

"The X-ray tech who took my images was caring and took the time to explain everything that was happening," Shoemaker says. "That inspired me to help others in their time of need."

Today, Shoemaker does just that as a vascular interventional technologist.

"The best part of being a technologist is being a part of patients' roads to recovery," she says. "There are many times where I have finished a case, sat back and realized just how much we did to help patients' lives."

She says the field offers many ways to help patients.

"Radiology is a department like no other," she says. "It really has options for everyone."

Seeing through CT

Isaiah Grafe agrees.

Like Shoemaker, Grafe's experiences as a patient inspired his health care career. He chose to pursue a role in CT, or computed tomography, where he cares for patients in different departments and settings.

"CT technologists perform scans for a wide variety of situations," he says. "We can do neurology, cardiac, abdominal, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, thoracic, vascular, interventional, musculoskeletal and research imaging."

He and his colleagues work in the Emergency Department as well as inpatient and outpatient settings.

"Our primary duty is to get the best images possible. This ensures our radiologists make proper diagnoses to get the best treatments for patients," Grafe says. "CT technologists are vital gears that allow health care to function smoothly and ensure the needs of the patients come first."

Seeing behind the scenes

Cassie Heyer long hoped that Mayo Clinic would be home. It's where she went to school and trained for her career, and it’s close to her family.

"After having gone through the program here, it was hard to envision myself going anywhere else," she says.

But after graduation, a challenging job market forced Heyer to take a job with another health care provider. The experience convinced her that Mayo Clinic was unique.

"It really took working elsewhere to appreciate what Mayo Clinic does that other places don't," Heyer says. "There are so many behind-the-scenes employees and departments that make the patient experience seamless."

She credits colleagues in Billing, Scheduling, Desk Operations and other areas with giving her the opportunity to focus solely on the patient.

"Everyone is supportive," she says. "I work with some pretty amazing people."

The road less traveled

One semester down the road toward a nursing degree, Jamie Mann took an offramp.

"I realized I did not want to be a nurse, but I knew that I wanted to do something in health care," she says. "I love helping patients."

Her exit from nursing school led her to the Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences Radiography Program, and then to a general radiography technologist position at Mayo Clinic.

"I loved what I was doing at Mayo, so I decided to put my name in the hat," she says of her decision to apply for a job at Mayo Clinic. "I feel that having been a longtime patient at Mayo and having been given so much, this is where I was supposed to be. I wanted to give back to others. This is my home and where I am supposed to continue growing in my career."

Mann later branched out into Breast Imaging, where she was trained in mammography and breast sonography.

"This position requires competence in a variety of equipment and technology," she says.

Some of the various exams breast imaging technologists perform include screening and diagnostic mammograms, ultrasounds, ultrasound-guided procedures, stereotactic biopsies, contrast-enhanced digital mammography, and seed-localization procedures.

"We are constantly working to provide the best care possible for each of our patients every day," Mann says, "always keeping in mind the needs of the patient come first."

More than broken bones

Once Bo Hentges could see the potential of seeing inside the human body, he knew he wanted to work in radiology.

"X-rays visualize inside the body to help provide diagnoses and care plans for patients," Hentges says.

While that often means diagnosing broken bones, Hentges and his colleagues see much more than that. "Our most common exams are chest X-rays, looking at the lungs, heart, and more," he says.

Patients are looking for an answer to why they are in pain. Others need pre- or postprocedure workups. Hentges also sees traumatic injuries, joint replacements, urologic cases and spine cases.

"I really appreciate the variety in my job," he says.

From student to teacher

As a nursing assistant, Kendra Petersen got a front-row view of a variety of health care careers — which led her to become interested in sonography. She even job shadowed a Mayo Clinic sonographer, which inspired her to enroll in the Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences Sonography Program and the University of Minnesota at Rochester Bachelor of Science in Health Professions Sonography track.

After graduation, she was offered a job at Mayo Clinic.

"I had my heart set on working here since I started my prerequisite classes," says Petersen, who is both a registered diagnostic medical sonographer and a registered vascular technologist.

"The neat thing about my position is that I get to utilize both modalities I learned in school," she says, "I perform different types of exams at all acuity levels."

Today, Petersen is the one inspiring a new generation of sonographers as a clinical instructor.

"Watching our students start from scratch and graduate ready to embark on their careers as competent sonographers is very rewarding," she says.

Every day is different

Alex Roberts followed a path similar to Petersen's. He decided to pursue a career as an MRI technologist after shadowing staff in his hometown hospital.

And while he loved the field, working in a small, rural hospital left him wanting something more. He found it at Mayo Clinic.

"Mayo seemed like the place to be if I wanted to see pathologies and technologies that very few facilities have access to," he says.

The differences between where he is and where he had been are stark, Roberts says.

"MRI here is much larger — 44 scanners versus two — and the protocols that the radiologists and physicists have developed for specific indications are much more laid-out and concise," he says. "We have a database of protocols here that are available online for reference. At my previous hospital, I had a red folder full of papers with parameters on them, and that was it."

Roberts also appreciates the ever-changing nature of his field.

"There's always something new being developed, so you'll always be learning and be challenged to do new things," he says. "Every day is different, and that’s what makes this job exciting."

Learn more about Radiography careers here, Sonography here, Nuclear Medicine here and Magnetic Resonance Imaging here.

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