Meet My Team: Learn about the unique role nurses play in bone marrow collections at Mayo Clinic

At most institutions, bone marrow collections are performed by physicians. But at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, a small group of nurses perform these vital procedures. Learn how their work contributes to patient care, what they'd look for in a new team member, and what they'd be called if they were a band.

"For me this job is personal," says Amie Turner, a bone marrow collection nurse at Mayo Clinic in Rochester. "I have had multiple family members who have needed to have bone marrow collections done. It isn't a fun test, but a much-needed one, so if I can make the experience a little better, I have done my job."

It's a unique job for a nurse: At most facilities, bone marrow collections are performed by physicians.

With a five-year tenure, Amie Turner is a relative newcomer to her team. Pictured with Turner (far right) are, from left, Joe Haack (24-year tenure), Rich Allen (26-year tenure), Ed Eick (14-year tenure) and fellow newcomer Rich Tanny (two-year tenure).

"I think, as a nurse, to be able to do this procedure is awesome," Turner says.

Her colleagues must agree. Of the five nurses that make up the team, two have been in their positions for more than 20 years.

"My colleagues are spectacular," Turner says. "The patient comes first, always. They are always willing to stay late or bend over backwards to get the collection done because we know how important it is."

But they don't do it alone.

"The technologists from the laboratory in Hematopathology Morphology are so good at what they do and are a huge part of the success of our samples," Turner says. "The nurse anesthetists that help us with sedation are all so wonderful and really help make this test better for the patients. The doctors and nurses that we work with in the different areas are so helpful and truly have the patient in mind.

"Overall, Mayo Clinic is the best, hands down, and this is just one example of that," she says.

The News Center team asked Turner to answer questions about her team.

Tell us about your team. What is it your team does?  

We are a five-person, nurse-led team performing bone marrow biopsies and aspirations, as well as fat pad aspirates across the Rochester campus on patients ages 0 to whatever you are blessed to live to. We also help with the bone marrow harvests for transplants, which is an amazing opportunity. 

Another responsibility is training fellows in multiple practices as part of their required training here at Mayo. 

How do you spend most of your day?  

Monday through Friday, we have three bone marrow collection teams: one in Gonda for sedated cases, one in Eisenberg 8G for unsedated cases, and one team for inpatient cases. We pair with a technologist from the laboratory in Hematopathology Morphology to collect high-quality bone marrow aspirate and biopsy samples. On rare and especially busy days, we might have a fourth nurse and tech on collections.

A typical day in Gonda could have 12–14 bone marrow patients, while other areas fluctuate in caseload. If we are not doing bone marrow collections, we work in the Infusion Therapy Center administering a variety of medications. One of us is also here on Saturday to cover any emergent cases that come in on Friday night or Saturday. 

A view of the equipment used during a bone marrow collection.

What might surprise people about the work your team does?  

At most institutions, bone marrow collections are performed by doctors. It's unique to have nurses collect bone marrow, and we have trained extensively to safely perform this procedure. 

Everyone at Mayo contributes to caring for patients. How does your team do that?  

We are taking care of patients during a difficult time in their lives, performing one of the tests that confirms their diagnosis or lets them know if their cancer is in remission. Bone marrow biopsies tend to have a bad reputation for being a terrible test, so we do everything possible to make sure we take care of our patients to the best of our abilities as well as help with the mental load of the diagnosis.  

You're going to hire a new team member. Describe your ideal candidate. 

Well, the ideal candidate would be fully trained when we hired them, but that is not possible. We go through a rigorous six-month orientation, so someone that is willing to learn and ask questions, as well as being independent and flexible, would be wonderful. 

We also would need someone that is passionate about making a difference for patients during a very difficult time in their lives. 

What is a recent team success that you're proud of?  

We did a total of over 5,700 cases last year! The quality of sample we get is outstanding and ultimately affects patient care for hematologic malignancies. Collected samples are processed and triaged by the Hematopathology Morphology lab and delivered to pathologists to interpret and sign cases. The quality and quantity of our samples are appreciated by our pathologists when compared to samples sent from facilities. 

If your team was a band, what would it be called? 

Bad to the Bone. 

If you had to describe your team's work in six words, what would your six-word story be? 

Flexible, Dependable, Competent, Caring, Necessary and Life-Changing.