Gritman Volunteer-Turned-Employee Clay Johns Preparing for Medical Career
Clay Johns comes to Gritman Medical Center most days just like any other clinical team member.
He’s eager to do exceptional work in service of patients. He scrubs into the second-floor surgery department to complete his shift sterilizing surgical instruments just like others on the floor do each day.
Johns’ journey to what is called Sterile Processing, however, began in an unconventional spot.
“I started as a COVID screener at the doors,” he said.
A Washington State University biology student, Johns’ first interactions with Gritman happened in 2021 when he sought volunteer opportunities as part of his pre-med track. Many Washington hospitals were still closed to volunteers because of the COVID-19 pandemic and Johns was eager to learn more about his chosen field.
In the year since, he has jumped at every opportunity to learn more about medicine – from the Medical/Surgical floor, testing out instruments in the Sleep Center, even supporting community events.
“I get to see behind the scenes, how different departments work as a team to the ultimate goal of helping the patient to a quick recovery,” he said.
Johns said he feels at home on the surgery floor.
Though he doesn’t interact directly with patients, his job is vital to their health. He spends two to three days each week sterilizing instruments, putting together the tool sets surgeons need for upcoming procedures and turning the rooms over between those surgeries.
The work is hard, and sometimes comes with tight deadlines when an emergency comes up. Several surgeries take place every day and each one has multiple moving parts and hours of prep and cleanup time associated with it.
“I love it,” he said. “It’s so amazing getting to be down there. I feel like this is preparing me for the medical field, when I get to become a physician.”
Originally from Ephrata in north central Washington, Johns’ interest in medicine piqued when he blew out a knee competing in the high school state wrestling tournament. The interactions with the physicians before and after surgery accelerated his ambitions for medicine – particularly surgery.
“Clay is an exceptional young man,” said Shelley McGregor, Gritman’s Volunteer Coordinator who encouraged Johns to take on the different roles within the hospital. “I can’t wait to see what he will accomplish and I am honored that his volunteer experience at Gritman will be part of his success story.”
He graduates from WSU in spring 2023, with medical school to follow in the fall. He’s grateful for the learning opportunities his various Gritman positions have provided – including shadowing surgeons and observing their procedures in specific cases.
“I just want to say ‘Thank You’ to Gritman,” he said. “They accepted me with open arms and have treated me with the highest respect, it really became my second family.”
Learn more about our Volunteer Services Program.
Read more Gritman stories at gritman.org/connections.