UPHS – Marquette Heroes: Jill Burbey

What is your official title? ​

Cytotechnologist

What was your inspiration for getting into health care?

I’ve always wanted to help people. When I was in the 3rd grade, my class attended a field trip to our hospital’s lab. I remember thinking how amazing it was seeing all of the instruments and how they worked behind the scenes, to help patients. I left that field trip knowing one day I wanted to work in a lab. Shortly after I started college at Northern Michigan University, I took a phlebotomy class and landed a job as a lab assistant performing phlebotomy. After a couple of years, I transferred to the cytology department of the lab to help with prep work while I completed my clinical lab science degree in cytotechnology. The past 8 years I’ve been working in our molecular lab. On July 1, 2020, I will have worked here for a total of 20 years!

How has your role changed with the pandemic?

Before the pandemic, I performed testing in both the molecular and cytogenetics labs as well as adding support to the cytology lab when needed. From the start of the pandemic, my focus turned to COVID testing. The molecular lab was a department comprised of two technicians. Initially, the focus was first to see what assays (or testing) we could perform here with our instrumentation, then to validate the assays and finally to train more people. We are now a team 7 strong, so, my role has changed quite a bit with the pandemic. 

What is a typical day like for you?

 Our first shift in the laboratory begins at 4 am, and this team takes care of the daily maintenance and cleaning of the instruments. Patient samples are then organized and worklists are created. It takes on average six hours to get results for the first run of COVID testing. Each run after that averages an additional 3-4 hours. The second shift starts at noon and we try to get all of the samples tested to meet our 24-hour turn around time.  The whole testing process has become pretty efficient, it’s labor-intensive and requires two techs at all times. There are a forward motion and a cleanup motion to our testing: the forward motion of the testing consists of lots of pipetting (or drawing) samples, loading instruments, and analyzing results, then there are the multiple steps of cleaning between each testing process taking care to not allow any cross-contamination. 

What’s it mean to you to have such a vital role in the testing process during this pandemic? ​

Well, to take a step back and see the kind of support in the form of testing that we can offer not only to our hospital and community but to all of the hospitals and communities across the Upper Peninsula we partner with is pretty moving. I’m very proud of what we are accomplishing here at UPHS-Marquette.  

What are some of your interests outside of work?

​I love living in the UP and all of the outdoor activities it offers! When I’m not at work I enjoy running, snowshoeing, skiing, camping, fishing, and most recently kayaking. I also enjoy coaching soccer.  I’m a mom to two middle school-aged boys. We are pretty active and enjoy these activities together. 

What is your favorite part about working at UPHS – Marquette? ​

My favorite part about working at UPHS-Marquette is being able to help take care of my family, neighbors, friends, and people in our community.  Having been born and raised here, I’ve become pretty passionate about our hospital and taking care of our community. My coworkers are a close second though. I work with an amazing group of people who not only work well together but are friends outside of work!

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