I was delighted to be invited for the second time to take a Self Care Study Day for the Mammographers at The Countess of Chester Hospital, on Thursday 2nd February 2017. It was two years previously that I had run a similar day, for the staff here at the Breast Screening Unit.
Superintendent Radiographer, Sara Millington said “ I found the training so beneficial, that I wanted members of staff who had been unable to attend last time to have the same training in order to prevent further or future MSK Problems”
So for some this was a refresher, and for others an introduction to the beginnings of a simple #SelfCare strategy, accessible to all and easy to implement into clinical practice and everyday life. We had a full day of learning. The morning session took place at Longhouse, in a conference room where we learnt the theory and principles of Alexander’s Technique. I tailor each course to the modality. My educational teaching programme, Alexander Technique For Radiographers, Level 1 is endorsed by the College of Radiographers, and supports all specialist radiology modalities.
Conference Room B, Longhouse all set up and ready to go for #SelfCare!
Can you spot the auspicious rainbow on the photo below?? What a lovely affirmation as I came out to the car part way through the morning. Right before we practised a Semi-Supine session.
I created my programme of #SelfCareSkills to help other Medical Imaging professionals reduce pain and injury levels, maintain earning power and ability to function well physically at work and in their private lives too. I absolutely believe it is possible to recover from a repetitive strain injury purely by practising #AlexanderTechnique as a daily habit. This came about as a result of my own personal journey from being an Advanced Practitioner of Obstetric Ultrasound and experiencing a Chronic WRMSD, being told by my Rheumatologist that my injury would never heal, that ‘ at best it would stay the same’ ( not an encouraging thought!) and trying all the conventional therapies he recommended to abate my pain levels. All to no avail. But this led on to me experiencing an epiphany during my first #AlexanderTechnique lesson, as a personal exploration through my desperation actually! I left my first lesson pain free, which was an amazing turn of events. It certainly got my full attention as it had been many years since I had been completely pain free. I had got very used to putting up with a degree of pain at all times, even while asleep!
I also believe it shouldn’t be accepted that so many radiographers become injured through the course of their working lives and that this is seen commonly as an occupational hazard. A little bit of education goes along way to empowering radiographers to help themselves to function optimally in their chosen profession with no adverse physical effects or negative impact on their earning potential or length of chosen career.
What happens in a Study Day for Mammographers with me? I’m detailing below an outline of what we covered in Chester. It is a typical representation of a 6 Hour Intensive Workshop.
I liked this poster within the department reminding patients to be Body Aware and Make Time For Breast Screening.
For me this could be converted for the staff to read
“Know Your Body”
‘Make Time For Self Care’
It’s truly too important to forget.
Every member of staff in the Mammography Department is equally as important as the patients they are there to serve.
Including ourselves, our whole selves, in our clinical duties in the Breast Screening environment is fundamental to Best Practice. If you’re not functioning optimally, you can’t help your patients or serve them optimally. So #SelfCare is your duty! Be Mindful of how you are going about your practice and make sure you’re using your mind and body as carefully as the equipment and with as much compassion and care you offer to your patients.
Here you can see a sequence of photographs that were taken with permission from the mammographers taking part in the educational training, to give you an idea of what we cover in the practical application of Alexander’s Technique in the afternoon session.
Every mammographer was able to have a turn at experiencing AT hands-on. We mock up scenarios and have staff members playing the role of ‘patient’ while the ‘mammographer’ is paying close attention to their personal habits during clinical practice and then, with my hands-on guidance, being able to experience a different and more natural way of moving around the patient, equipment etc. How you move your body, is of the upmost importance. How you approach a distressed patient also impacts on the physical self, so we learn ways of minimising negative reactions, or responses that are less than helpful for the health of our future self.
The focus of the practical session was on greeting patients, positioning them and even how we press the exposure button without undue tension. We also got an opportunity to look at Breast Ultrasound too, and a very willing patient allowed me to be in the room with the Breast Physician who’d been experiencing shoulder pain. While the doctor was scanning, I was able to assist her with differing ways of standing, setting up the Ultrasound machine more to her personal dimensions and easier ways of holding the transducer which alleviated her discomfort. Hurray!
We also looked at setting up image reporting stations, sitting and standing and changed things to support the practitioner more fully. Simple but effective strategies that help the Breast Care staff look after their own health whilst they help the health of their patients too. Win-Win-Win. Everybody benefits, the staff, the patients and the NHS. It truly is a wise investment. Morale gets a boost and the community of Breast Centre staff can continue to help each other long after the end of the Educational Training Day.
We practise constructive rest as part of the training, which enables participants to experience the value of this simple nurturing practice as part of their ongoing wellness programme.
It’s such a positive forward thinking policy to ensure that the team are aware of methods that can improve health and wellbeing, simply and easily. It’s also incredibly cost effective for the NHS to protect their investment in these highly qualified, skilled, specialist mammographers and assistant practitioners and Breast Care Consultants too who enable so much in the management of patients’ health care. It’s vital to also look after the healthcare of the healthcare workers! I’m always delighted when a department makes it a priority. We may have to start being creative in the ways we go about funding this, for example if budgets are squeezed, is there a different avenue you could look at to raise the money? Sometimes departments have used charity money for the health of their staff. It improves morale no end too and when the staff are valued, supported and cared for in this way, it creates a harmonious environment whereby everyone supports each other and manages to thrive professionally and personally too. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea to also include this in the mandatory training of sonographers, radiographers, mammographers and other imaging staff to ensure that from the start individuals are aware of how they can best perform their clinical duties? The investment in the staff training would then be protected from the start……something to consider if you are involved in the Higher Education programmes for imaging staff in the Graduate and Post Graduate specialist training.
So what did the participants think of this training? Here are some comments I received as part of the feedback. Printed here with permission.
“The session has illustrated lots of very simple things I can do to alleviate / help rectify an RSI” Breast Physician – Dr Sara Bundred
“Very helpful, a good balance of presentation and activity to re-inforce a completely new approach” Consultant Breast Radiographer -Judith Kelly
“Thank you Angela, the day was informative and I have enjoyed it” Mammographer, Vanessa Pryer
“I didn’t realise my posture was wrong until it was pointed out. It has helped me to concentrate on myself as well as the patient.” Mammographer, Radiotherapist Gill Owen
“Angela was excellent.” Anon
Please do get in touch with me if you’d like to discuss a similar event in your department. It’s also a good idea to refresh the knowledge annually if possible to retain the benefit of the training. I’d love to help!
Until next time, be well!