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Breast Care--Nightmare on Mammo Street--The Story Continues

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"Jesus Christ! I am so tired and sick of these patients complaining, complaining, complaining," my coworker exclaimed between clenched teeth. I could only imagine her frustration. While most patients are apprehensive about coming for mammograms because of the compression, most technologists are frustrated about some other factors such as:

1. workload
2. paperwork
3. dealing with radiologists
4. technical difficulties with machines
5. dealing with different patients

6. administrative bureaucracy
7. dealing with co-workers
8. personal and health problems
9. pay raise issues

Please allow me to explain each one of these a bit more:

1. When I first started to work as a mammographer 15 years ago, the facility I worked for had patients scheduled every half hour for regular screening exams. We had one hour time slots for patients with implants or special diagnostic problems. Now, the average number of patients per technologist is anywhere from 20 to 28. The time crunch for keeping up with patients puts immense pressure on the staff technologists.

2. Introduction of computers at work places was supposed to reduce and improve the time management and quality of work. But along with the computers came the need for the mammographers to learn different software for patient assessments, medical records, and procedures. The amount of paperwork did not decrease either, hence, double the workload for technologists.

3. Mammographers not only have to deal with patients, paperwork, and administrative duties but most of the time with radiologists also. Technologists are expected to learn and follow through with different protocols for each doctor. Besides the protocols, technologists also have to deal with the mood swings of the radiologists on a daily basis.

4. Mammography machines are extremely sensitive and need to be calibrated daily. Quality assurance and quality control procedures are required to be carried out every day. Technologists often play superwomen or supermen when the machines break down in order to keep up with the schedules and keep patients happy.

5. Each patient is different. Most mammographers have to take at least 20 patients. Some patients come with fears of compression, and fears of the procedure. Some come with fears of the results. Some deal with matters of modesty. Technologists take patient frustrations on a day to day basis.

6. Most mammography departments or centers are headed by people who are not experienced in this field. Sometimes, these officials are mostly concerned about the number of patients to be scheduled and number of exams or procedures to be done and the amount money that has to be charged or how much money the department made at any given month; not if there are any technical difficulties, complications with individual cases, patient complaints, or the stress levels on technologists or other staff.

7. Politics at the work place are the direct result of employee turnover in most places. Health care facilities are the most affected by the politics between employees. This not only affects the quality of work but also the spirits of the employees. It in turn affects patients.

8. Stress at the work place is the cause for most mammographers leaving their jobs in search of less stressful clinics. Over the years a technologist will typically suffer from work related injuries. Positioning patients with different body types leads to neck, back, and joint pains. Most mammographers work through these physical injuries until they end up having surgeries. The patient load on each technologist directly results in lack of quality work done by mammographers and imaging errors.

9. Mammography demands attention to details by the technologists in order to save lives but it is the most neglected in the modality of radiology in terms of salary caps. Even though most mammographers' education qualifications are equal or more than nursing professionals they are not recognized as such in the medical field. This leads to employee dissatisfaction, decreased interest in work and quitting jobs. Returning patients look for the same mammographer to perform their exam and end up being disappointed finding a new person in place.

With growing awareness of breast cancer in the world, efforts should be made to keep the quality of work done by mammography technologists who are the key players in caring for patients. They are in the front line to take patient frustrations and radiologists as well. Reduced patient loads lead to more time spent with patients which leads to more productivity and quality mammograms. This leads to less errors in imaging which could result in missed cancers. Saving lives is a big responsibility that lies on these mammographers. But saving themselves in order to save lives should be their primary goal, because OUR LIFE MATTERS.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

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