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Willems Accepts Dream Job at Mayo


Kat (Katherine) Willems' cell phone rang just two and a half hours after her webcam interview from the Academic Success Center at Northland Community and Technology College with Mayo Clinic Hospital in Rochester. The cell number was unfamiliar, and fearing a robo call, Kat did not answer her phone. When a message popped up in voicemail, Kat was curious to find out who had left a message. She was quite unprepared to hear that she was being offered the surgical tech position she had just interviewed for that very morning with Mayo!

"I interviewed on March 8 with two surgical leads at Mayo," said Kat. "It was the first position I applied for and it feels incredible that I was offered my dream job!"

Kat had not yet graduated from Northland Community and Technical College where she earned a two-year Associate of Applied Science degree in Surgical Technology in May, graduating with a 4.0 GPA.

"It was a big decision for me to go back to college," explained Kat. "I attended Province College in Manitoba right after high school. I wanted to be a counselor, so I enrolled in psychology classes and also in theater. But I couldn't focus and didn't do well. It just didn't feel right. After a year and a half, I left school."

Fast forward 9 years and Kat has a baby daughter, Ameerah, and fiance' Abdullah.

"My fiance' Abdullah was a chemical engineering major at UND. He kept pushing me to go back to school. He always believed I could be successful at another career that was a better fit for me. Browsing Northland's website,I discovered the surgical technology program. The more I looked at it, the more it sounded just right!"

It all began with her favorite TV show ER. When Kat was young, she and her mom never missed watching an episode. Kat found anything medical fascinating. Kat's favorite book wasn't a picture book, but a medical dictionary filled with descriptions of diseases, symptoms and procedures.

"I requested stethoscopes and bandages for gifts as a kid," laughed Kat. "My brother was my patient and I enjoyed wrapping him in bandages!

"In one of my first classes at Northland, I was able to job shadow in an operating room and that experience is when I knew for sure surgical technologist was the career I wanted!"

" Surgical Techs prepare the operating room, set up the sterile field, know the equipment, gather supplies and assist the surgeon throughout the procedure,"explained

Ruth LeTexier, Surgical Technology Program Director for Northland. "The field is really very demanding, so you have to have a high skill level. More and more surgeries are becoming minimally invasive so they have to understand robotics and camera systems, but you also have to be a good communicator. The number one thing employers ask me has to do with students' soft skills; can they communicate well, are they reliable, are they dependable, are they professional?"

Kat Willems feels she learned from the very best at Northland.

" Ruth the primary instructor for Surgical Technology and Linda, the assistant instructor, have a combined experience of 70 years!" exclaimed Kat.

"I really enjoyed all the core classes I took my first year; anatomy, physiology, psychology, microbiology, ethics, medical terminology, so I knew I was on the right career path. Every single one of my teachers at Northland had faith in me and encouraged me. That kept me pushing forward and made me want to keep coming back to class."

"My goal when I began Northland was to work at the University of Minnesota Children's Hospital, Twin Cities Orthopedics or Mayo but I expected it would take a few years to achieve a position at one of these hospitals. I didn't expect to begin work at my dream job right away!"

Kat Willems will begin working at Mayo Clinic Hospital Rochester in the GYN and Urology Surgical Departments on July 15.

Kat is the daughter of Vicki Ingebrigtson and the late Steve Willems all of Warroad.


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