This post was written in 2021 by Louise Miller, R.T.(R)(M)(ARRT), CRT(M), FSBI, FNCBC. We felt this information is so valuable, that we wanted to share it again this year!
I don’t know about you, but when Breast Cancer Awareness Month would come around, I'd have mixed feelings: YIKES… full schedules everyday… non-stop! But then ... WOW… this is the time of year where we can have fun with decorations, patient giveaways and celebrate the amazing work that we do!
Before we "get there", I want to share some thoughts that might inspire you and help make October, ie: Breast Cancer Awareness Month not so exhausting, both physically and emotionally. Because, let’s face it, after doing 25+ screenings per day, we are tired, especially during COVID: extra time needed for cleaning, the challenges of wearing masks, and no change to the schedule to accommodate for these extra hindrances to efficiency. We are also emotionally exhausted as, let’s face it (again!), most patients don’t like having mammograms! You are well aware of the ways in which they express their displeasure.
So, when the schedule is packed for an entire month (which may be the case at some of your departments every month), how can we focus on the positive? How can we find joy in the workplace when surrounded by the inevitable sadness that the diagnosis of breast cancer (our job!) brings? Here are some ideas, especially for October, but some of which can be practiced throughout the year:
Kindness, Compassion and Empathy
Being a woman gives us the unique opportunity to relate to our patients. We all should know what it feels like to have a mammogram and the associated fears of a potential diagnosis of breast cancer. Use those feelings to help guide you in your patient care, remembering that most of us do some crazy stuff when we are feeling anxious.
Communication should be correct, concise and caring. Sometimes over explaining things only complicates the situation. Keep it simple and use terminology the patient understands. Never offer your personal opinions of augmentation, surgeons, health care providers or what you see on the mammogram.
One department where I worked held an Employee Screening Night during October. They would choose a different theme each year and really have fun with it. Plus, by mid-October we are probably getting sick of pink so it would become a “theme” change!
One year the theme was Hawaii… you get the idea… coconut bras and all! There are tons of stuff online. Even the radiologists can join in the fun here: wear Hawaiian shirts... you know that the men have at least one that they bought on vacation and we gals always have something that is kind of flowery and Hawaiian-ish! But even just wearing plastic leis would change up the mood and atmosphere.
I am a big fan of the “Dollar” type stores. I think they carry Hawaiian type party favors all year... so a good, inexpensive way to go! Another idea is to hold a “Moonlight Mammograms” party for patients. No, you do not have to stay til midnight!! But to have evening mammogram appointments is a BIG bonus to those patients who have to work during the day and may find it difficult to get to! Finally, how about a “Pink Party”? Many of these and more can be found just by Googling "Breast Cancer Awareness ideas".
I mentioned the dollar stores above, which are now filled with Halloween stuff, but I am hoping soon we will see more BCA (Breast Cancer Awareness) items. Check Walmart, Target, and online too! Most grocery stores will have big helium balloons all month, so get some of those!
Our admin team helped with the costs, but even if they couldn’t, we all chipped in by bringing in items we picked up ourselves. You can make your own pink pom-poms out of tissue paper and hang them from the ceiling. Get everyone involved and have fun with it!
Part of the décor could be Painted Pink Pumpkins, which I posted pictures of last year in the Quality Breast Imagers Facebook Group. Put them on display and let patients vote on the “best” pumpkin. Maybe everyone chip in a dollar for the “prize” for the winner to receive a free lunch or Starbucks gift card?
I always find it amusing that patients will wait to schedule their mammogram until October because they get free “goodies”: tote bags, emery boards, pens, post-it notes etc. Hey, who doesn’t want one more tote bag, when you already have 10 in the closet? We all know most giveaways are not really high quality (I am still waiting to be given a Tennis bracelet... CZ is OK!), but if a giveaway is what motivates a woman to come in, I am all for it! It also helps to promote your breast center. We want our patients to remember where they got their last mammogram and advertise that to others.
How about matching T-shirts? Do something fun and or flashy to show unity as a team.
What about making a big poster with all your pictures on it, writing your own name, with a big “We Care For You” at the top?! You could take selfies with playful filters like flowers around your head or rose colored glasses. Get creative!
Or have a pot-luck where everyone brings something! Try to think of pink food (there may be a lot of ham dishes. LOL!) I saw this recipe for Pink Popcorn! It is SO cute!
Special Treats for Mammo Techs
Okay, supervisors and admin people, this is for you. We know how we all love food... so plan for pizza, ice cream sundaes, breakfast burritos, sandwiches, etc. Once a week is enough, but you can do more. One year we had a Massage Therapist bring in a massage chair and each tech got a 10 min back rub. Another year we had a gal who did foot massages where each tech received a 10 min foot rub. And yes, the rads can jump in there too! You may think, oh my administration would never allow that, but you’d be surprised!! It doesn’t hurt to ask. Finally, at the end of the month, everyone might enjoy going out for Happy Hour. 😉 Celebrate all you have done and given during Breast Cancer Awareness Month!
So much of what we do in life depends on how we react to situations. One of my big life lessons was to realize that while we cannot control many things that happen in life (packed schedules, add-ons, late patients, crabby co-workers, demanding radiologists), we can control how we respond and react to them.
Sure, sometimes we need to blow off a little steam (I used to hide in the darkroom and scream into a towel, but no more darkrooms). Take a walk outside during your break or lunch… I know what you are thinking: IF I get a break or lunch. But rather than internalize the stress that may be associated with a very busy month, find a way to defuse in a way that is healthy and positive. Post a picture on your computer monitor of your grandkids or pet or something that makes you smile.
Stay focused on the difference that you have made in women’s lives who you know nothing about.
You KNOW you have taken mammograms that have found breast cancers that could have been missed otherwise. You really DO make a difference and hopefully knowing that will help get you through this, often times, crazy month.
Here I am celebrating Breast Cancer Awareness Month in my first walk as a survivor! It was a mammogram that saved my life!