Recently, I went in for my annual mammogram. Yes, even though I'm under 40. I've had some benign tumors removed in the past so I get routine mammos. I also started going out of network to the best radiologist in town as I had a small scare with the last biopsy.
In my experience with this radiology group, the mammography technicians are usually really great: gentle, and very thorough.
However this time, while I was getting dressed, the technician tsked, tsked, tsked me and then said, "Such a shame that someone so young has had so many surgeries, so many scars."
Surprised and flustered, I replied, "Well, it's better to remove the tumors than leaving them in and having something happen!"
However, I left that little cold room humiliated and angry. Why was the technician making comments about my breasts, how many surgeries I've had to have and about my scars? Why did I have to defend my body? I'm all for keeping it light and breezy especially when getting a potentially scary test; but there is a line and this technician definitely crossed it.
Inappropriate comments are always difficult to deal with. Add to that in a doctor's office. Add to that you're half naked. Add to that you still have to pay!
What could I do about it now?
I should have said something more direct to the technician about how I felt her comments were inappropriate. However, I felt humiliated and angry and shocked. So, I covered it up with a joke; natural response on my part.
The next natural response: never go back to this office.
I didn't choose that option for two reasons: as I had been before, I felt this comment was aberrant; and I felt it was only fair to give them a chance to make it right before I started thinking about going elsewhere
So what did I do? The next best thing. I told her boss. Not to snitch, nor to bitch, but to relay this technician's comments to her boss, my doctor, in an effort to curtail this technician from making similarly inappropriate comments to me or to the next half-naked woman.
Doctors are the presidents of their companies; they are the head honchos of their businesses. And as with any other business, when you have an issue with a worker, you need to tell the boss.
When I returned two weeks later for a follow up test, I told my radiologist and her medical assistant what had happened during my prior visits. Both of their mouths dropped; they were visibly horrified by this technician's comment. But not surprised; they've had other issues with other technicians. My doctor apologized and said she would talk with the technician directly. She also said, "I can't be in the room for every mammogram so I'm very glad you told me this."
What to do if this happens to you.
1. Stay calm.
2. Try not to engage the bad behavior or insulting, inappropriate comments with an equally inappropriate response.
3. Make a physical note of what was said, when and by whom.
4. Tell the boss. When you are out of the heat of the moment, speak directly with your doctor about what was said to you and how it made you feel.
5. A good office boss i.e. doctor will listen attentively, make note of what happened and deal with it. And you won't have the issue again.
6. However, if your doctor defends the bad behavior or does not make amends then seriously consider changing doctor's offices.
And here are some Six Ways to Be a Better Patient from the New York Times.
Published On: August 11, 2008