Jenna headshot

MNCCTN Site Staff Spotlight: Jenna

While MNCCTN is based at the University of Minnesota and led by the Masonic Cancer Center, MNCCTN's research is conducted at sites throughout Greater Minnesota. These sites are led by MNCCTN Partners: Essentia Health, M Health Fairview, Mayo Clinic Health System, Metro-Minnesota Community Oncology Research Consortium (MMCORC), and Sanford Health. MNCCTN's Partners are integral to the network's work and progress, and we could not enroll participants throughout Minnesota with MNCCTN Partners and sites. Altogether, 135 people are working with MNCCTN in some way statewide. These roles include investigators, research coordinators and nurses, project managers, regulatory staff, lab and pharmacy staff, and more. We want to highlight the incredible work that MNCCTN Partner and site staff do.

Today we are highlighting Jenna, RN Study Coordinator at Mayo Clinic Health System. Learn more about Jenna's career path that led her from nursing and education to research, what she enjoys and finds most challenging in research, and recommendations she has for people interested in research or just starting out in their career. 

Site Staff Spotlight image featuring Jenna, RN Study Coordinator at Mayo Clinic

What was your career path before your current role? 

Fun fact: I have only ever worked in healthcare! I was a CNA in high school and college. When I finished nursing school, I went straight to ICU. I did that for 12 years. During that time, I completed my master’s in nursing education. I left the ICU to teach nursing full time, while continuing to work per-diem in the COVID infusion unit at MCHS. I came back to MCHS full time last fall to take my current position in cancer research!

What interested you in research as a career?

As a nurse, research is really the foundation of what and why we do what we do for our patients. It changes the direction of care with the ultimate goal of improving patient outcomes. The idea that what we are doing now in terms of research will guide care for future generations (and that I get to be a part of that) is pretty neat. I also really enjoy learning new things, and since research is always changing, it’s never boring!

What are three words that describe your team at MCHS and the research community?

Compassionate, intelligent, and dedicated.

What is your favorite part about working in research? What is most challenging?

My favorite part of working in research is the research participants! I am amazed every day that even in the moment of a devastating diagnosis, people will say “if it will possibly help someone else in the future or help someone avoid the diagnosis I just received, I’m willing to do it.” They are very inspiring. 

The most challenging part for me has been the fact that not much in research seems to move quickly. My critical care background makes me want to get things done right now and that’s just not always doable in research. I’m learning to embrace the slower pace.

What qualities and skills do you think are important for a job in research?

I think organization skills, critical thinking, and being detail-oriented are important qualities for working in research.

What recommendations do you have for someone interested in research or just starting out in their career?

Have patience! I felt like I had to learn a whole new language when I started in research, but once you’re in it for a while, it all makes sense. It can be very overwhelming. The reward is worth the effort, so if research is something you’re interested in-go for it!