Written by: Louise C. Miller, R.T.(R)(M)(ARRT), CRT(M), FSBI, FNCBC, Director of Education

I get calls and emails several times a week from offices that are desperately looking for Mammography Technologists. You may know from working in your own facility that there is a huge shortage. Unfortunately, that directly impacts patient (and technologist) care! Patients have to wait, sometimes for months, to get their screenings and even worse, weeks to get a diagnostic exam. Technologists are overloaded with heavier schedules and there is no relief staff for coverage when their colleagues are sick. Burnout is rampant and I cannot help but believe that as a result, patient care may be compromised.  

When I hear of a problem that interests or affects my work... and then, in turn, patient care, I am never one to sit back and say, "Well, that’s a bummer." I try to think of ways we can work together to improve the situation. I know that a lot of times we think, “Well, it won’t do any good...", but I promise you, it will! You can make a difference or you would not be reading this blog in an effort to learn and grow. This is how we, individually and collectively, can work together to try to get the staffing we want and need!

So what can we, as Breast Imagers, do to help solve this problem? Here are some of my ideas:
Soon To Be Retirees or the Already Retired:    

For those of you who are older and can’t wait to retire (I don’t blame you!), consider delaying your retirement for several months. Do you know anyone who has retired from mammography in the past couple years? Maybe ask if they would be willing to come in a day or two each week.

I know a friend who retired a few years ago who missed the patients (not the department drama) so much so, that she works every Saturday with screening patients. She says it keeps her connected with the work she loved (loves) even though she is a very busy and active grandmother and retiree.  

Those of you who have retired and are still following mammography (if you are reading this, that would be you!), please consider coming back into the field, even just a couple days a week/month. We can use all the help we can get!

Radiology Students:

Those of you who are working with students, encourage them to choose mammography as a specialty! Even though we are currently experiencing staff shortages and increased workloads, we can still share our passion for what we do and try to help the next generation of mammographers see the benefits of working in this subspecialty of radiology. When working with students, share your enthusiasm, explain the rewards (and challenges) of being a mammographer. If you really feel you are “stuck” in mammography and don’t like it anymore (although if you're reading this blog, then you're probably not this person), please do not train students! They will absorb your negativity, which can be destructive personally and professionally. I have always maintained the theory that those who do not like to perform mammograms should not do so. Again, the negative impact can be far reaching, not only in terms of department morale, but also in patient experience, which greatly affects screening compliance rates.

You can also go to your local/community RT Programs and give a talk about being a mammographer. I have done this for many years at PMI, which is a trade school for RTs and other Allied Health Care Professionals. I give a talk to the second year students who are starting their clinical rotations. It is a 50-minute PowerPoint presentation that explains the importance of early detection, especially mammography, and the technologist’s important role in that process.  I have been told by many, many students that they signed up to take a mammography course due to the brief orientation I presented. Prior to that, they told me they thought that mammography was just “squishing boobs”, but we all know it is so much more and they were able to glean that from my talk. You can do this too! YOU can make a difference.

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P.S. We always include male students in this presentation, as I feel it is important that they understand the true, life saving benefit of early detection with breast imaging. From there, they can not only encourage their moms, sisters and friends to have mammograms, but also encourage and support their fellow female students to specialize in mammography! Mammography Educators has done everything possible to encourage rad techs to become mammography technologists. We have free orientations for interested techs on a regular basis. Tell your interested colleagues about this!

Initial Training in Mammography:

Mammography Educators has developed a 40-hour virtual Mammography Initial Training Program that can be done anytime, anywhere. No travel required! We let you make payments in installments, offer individual coaching sessions and give huge discounts several times per year through our free Introduction to Mammography online events. 

Our course is taught by technologists and radiologists who have worked in some of the best breast centers in the U.S. Our faculty has also donated over a thousand hours as volunteers to advance the profession and professionalism of mammography and technologists. We teach the only positioning technique that has been proven by data to improve image quality but has also been featured in courses presented by the Society of Breast Imaging and employs proper body ergonomics that will help reduce and/or avoid work related injuries that plagues so many technologists. No other course has these same distinctions. Our course will not only help someone pass “the test”, but more importantly, it will prepare you to be a great mammographer! We share our expertise and our passion! 

Bottom line: Tell a friend! Get them excited (or re-excited) about mammography. We need help and it won’t come without our efforts!

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