Jason Fratzke’s job description at Mayo Clinic Health System is chief nursing operator, a position itself encompassing many duties, but for the last year he has expanded his role in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Jason Fratzke, chief nursing officer at Mayo Clinic Health System, helps vaccinate community members for several hours once a week. Peter Thomson, La Crosse Tribune

Late last March, following the local onset of the coronavirus pandemic, Fratzke assumed the role of incident commander, sharing the job with two other employees.

That was on top of his CNO position, which has him overseeing around 1,000 nurses to ensure “from a day to day and operational standpoint we have the right number of nurses and we’re partnering in the right way for our best possible patient outcomes.”

As incident commander, Fratzke, who had previously worked in hospital incident command at Mayo Clinic Rochester, helped control and coordinate the emergency response during the coronavirus crisis.

“It allowed me to get involved more in depth into all the different types of events going on in our organization,” says Fratzke, who helped with monitoring supply and demand of PPE, adjusting visitor policies as the pandemic ramped up, setting up the COVID units, working with staff and organizing COVID-19 testing.

When the COVID-19 vaccine became available at local hospitals in December, Fratzke took on a third position, coming in most Mondays to help inoculate patients.

“I felt compelled, because so many of my colleagues and nurses, and our employee base across this entire organization, stepped up and did more to provide care for COVID patients along with all the other illnesses that continued to plague (patients) every day,” Fratzke says. “I wanted to say ‘thank you’ and give back as all the employees here have.”

Fratzke says he “wouldn’t feel I was doing my part” if he hadn’t jumped in to aid with the vaccination, and despite the added responsibility and time the experience has been amazingly rewarding.

“It’s been a thrill for met to throw my scrubs back on and interact directly with patients again and listen to their stories, particularly those 65 and older who have been impacted heavily by this, and see the hope that they have about the future, and their ability to be less fearful of contracting covid,” Fratzke says.

Everything he does, and everything the staff does, is “to ensure the needs of our patients are met, and any way I can do that I’m happy to help.”

COVID has been “a moving target” over the past 12 months, and despite having limited information and resources at times, and dealing with ebbs and surges of COVID patients, Fratzke says Mayo has done a “phenomenal job” of providing “outstanding” medical care, coronavirus testing and vaccinations on top of everyday patient care.

Fratzke also commends Mayo’s COVID-19 Outpatient Therapy Center, which has been successful in treating patients before their symptoms worsen in order to prevent hospitalization.

“It’s been busy, it’s been a crazy ride, but I’m incredibly proud of our organization and the people that work inside of it,” Fratzke says. “And I hope the community has felt that impact in a positive way.”

This browser does not support the video element.

Emily Pyrek can be reached at emily.pyrek@lee.net.