Are you ready to join a positive collective of great imagers who are aimed at the similar goal of elevating the field? We are all in the Quality Breast Imagers’ Facebook Group.  Hope to see you there.

The Privilege of a Positive Mammography Imaging Team

I love the people I work with.  I am lucky to be able to run a business where we can personally choose who we work with; this is just one of the many advantages of being a mammo queen 😉.  Our team only hires people who share similar perspectives about mammography, who strive to be kind and respectful and who make a difference in the world .  I understand that many technologists are not so lucky.  You may have coworkers and patients who don’t reflect the best of who you are and the work that you do.   

When Social Media Becomes a Gossiping Circle

After a trying week of trying to defend myself and my belief in what is appropriate and professional to say concerning mammography on social media, I felt challenged and defeated.  When I raised concerns about ethical mammographic practices, people challenged my beliefs in a crude and often ugly manner.   I don’t shock easily, but I was utterly astounded by the words that were being used and the tone in which they were delivered.  I know that I am not everyone’s cup of tea, but if I know one thing, it is that I support and expand the role of the technologist.  

My life has been spent elevating the level of professionalism among mammography technologists by defending them from radiologists and others who do not have a clear understanding of how difficult their work is.  I also have tried to be a champion for developing a greater understanding of patient anxiety by providing suggestions from mental health professionals.  My hope is that by integrating mental health with ethical mammographic practice, we can meet that anxiety in a compassionate and professional manner without demeaning the patient by being respectful of our own boundaries.  

It’s hard to counsel on what to say when you hear a patient sneer and say, “What a disgusting job” or “I hate coming here.”  However, we provide some possible scripts for how to approach someone experiencing mammography anxiety.

We Cannot Condone Immaturity in the Mammography Profession

One thing I cannot condone or ignore is the level of immaturity used in expressing frustration for patients and their behaviors by technologists.  Now, I am not advocating that it is okay for a patient to abuse a tech, however there is a way to defuse such situations in a professional manner.  When the frustrations and anxieties the patients feel, which have been amplified during COVID, seem to spill over on to the technologist, those same frustrations land on social media.  Do not get me wrong, I have no problem with venting, but it has to be appropriate in terms of time, place and content.  

Coping Mechanisms for Frustrated Mammographers

Choosing to let off steam with positive coping skills is no easy task, in any profession. Coping with a negative experience requires some discipline.   Maybe an appropriate way to deal with a tough patient situation would be to come out of the mammography room, plop into a chair in the tech work area and letting out a big and rather obvious sigh.  At that moment, maybe everyone in the room would give you a knowing look.  This heavy sigh in the break room has such fewer and more temporary negative implications than suggesting that technologists have a patient hold their breath “to shut them up” in a public forum.  

Some people may say I have no sense of humor or am on my high horse. In that case, there is nothing I can do to change their mind.  It is clear, though, that making fun of patients is NOT respectful to your patient or to your profession.  

I know that we all have our frustrations with work, particularly with our patients.  All I am
asking is that each of us choose empathy first and hold the understanding that anxiety can cause frustrating patient behaviors.  I also hope that breast imaging professionals will use discretion when discussing those behaviors.  Social media is not an appropriate place to disclose frustrating patient behaviors.  

Celebrating our Positive Patient Experiences

Why not, instead, celebrate and focus on those patients’ behaviors that remind us of how important and valued our work is?  Those that help us celebrate the meaningfulness of the job that we do.  The patient who asks if YOU can do her mammogram again next year.  The patient who brings you food.  The patient that asks for a hug, even after being very crabby for the last 30 min.  These are the people to think about when you are having a tough time with someone who is not behaving in such a pleasant way.  Focus on your successes and know that you have made a difference in your patient’s life no matter what their attitude, words or actions may be.  You were there for her and you were kind.  And that in itself deserves respect. 

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