Wyoming Medical Center pursues Breast Center of Excellence designation

By Kristy Bleizeffer Oct 25, 2016

In this interview, Jessie Wagner, a mammography certified radiology technologist (RT-M), explains Wyoming Medical Center's journey to becoming a Breast Center of Excellence.

October is the month of pink. For good reason, reminders to get your yearly mammogram are everywhere. But there’s little information for women whose mammograms come back “abnormal.” 

“Wyoming Medical Center is the area’s primary hospital for the follow-up care a woman may require once they’ve received an abnormal result,” said Jessie Wagner, a mammography certified radiology technologist (RT-M) and coordinator for the hospital’s efforts to become a Breast Center of Excellence.

“I am very passionate about the care we provide, the procedures we perform and the help we give patients once they require further care.”

Wyoming Medical Center is in the middle of a five-year process to earn Breast Center of Excellence designation from the National Consortium of Breast Centers. In this interview, Wagner explains this designation and what it means for women facing that terrifying “abnormal” result.

Q. What is a Breast Center of Excellence?

A. Breast Center of Excellence is a nationally recognized designation certifying that your hospital follows the highest standards in breast and women’s care. Wyoming Medical Center is working toward this designation, similar to our designations for our heart and stroke centers.

This is a five year process and requires more than five full years of data to be submitted to the national consortium. As coordinator for this designation, I’ll be collecting the data.

At Wyoming Medical Center, we’ve developed a collaborative approach that includes our surgeons, the oncologists, the radiologists and the hospitalists. Every one of these specialties works together behind the scenes to provide the best breast care in Wyoming. 

Q. What kind of breast care does Wyoming Medical Center provide?

A. Most of the time, women don’t come here to get their annual mammogram screenings. We are a tertiary referral center that provides comprehensive breast care for patients who have abnormal mammograms and ultrasounds.

WMC offers a comprehensive menu of services directly related to the breast, including ultrasound-, stereotactic- and MRI-guided breast biopsies, lymph node biopsy, nuclear medicine examinations that facilitate operative guidance; and our surgical team offers breast conservation surgical options as well as mastectomy. 

Q. So, basically, most women who come to see your department have already been told something is “abnormal.” What is that like?

A. Every woman who walks through our door is nervous. They have been told they have something abnormal, and that in and of itself is scary. SInce Breast Cancer Awareness holds such a central role in the media and within women’s health, patients immediately wonder, “Do I have Cancer?”

I assist the doctors with their breast procedures, but my role goes much deeper than that. I truly love caring for people, and I have the opportunity to hold their hand, reassure them and coach them through the procedure. That’s my favorite part of the job. Since our biopsies take roughly 45 minutes to an hour, we get to know our patients and bond with them. It’s not just performing a biopsy.  

Q. How does a hospital become a Center of Excellence?

A. The designation is evaluated and granted by the National Quality Measures for Breast Centers (NQMBC), which is an initiative of the National Consortium of Breast Centers (NCBC).

The NCBC measures 31 different elements of breast care, and up to 36 elements for some sections in the evaluation process.  These range from the time it takes a woman to get their mammogram results to the time it takes to have a formal breast surgery. NCBC also tracks tumor margins, hormone involvement percentages, patient satisfaction and even breast cancer staging.

It’s a tiered system, and becoming a Center of Excellence requires a full five years of tracking data. Our first full tracking year was in 2014, and we’re aiming for 2019 to receive our full certification.

We recently completed our application for certification at the first level, as a  Certified Participant. The second level is Quality Center and the third level is Center of Excellence.

We are fortunate in Casper to provide quick access to results. There are places where it takes a week to get a pathological result. At WMC, we can typically offer that in 2 to 3 business days. 

Q. What does this designation mean for patients?

A. Wyoming Medical Center already provides a high level of care for these women, but this designation will mean it’s going to be recognized on a national level. That will also let women know that they are receiving the same high level of care in Casper, Wyo., that they would otherwise seek in larger medical centers typically located far away in big cities. It’s the knowledge that the people of Wyoming do not have to leave Wyoming for that level of care. This designation will help prove that.

Being diagnosed with breast cancer is challenging enough, but add on to that going through the biopsy, potentially surgical intervention, chemotherapy and radiation treatments — you just want to be home. We believe that this designation will offer an external “seal of approval” so patients will feel confident about staying close to home for their care.

Q. Explain why this kind of care is a passion of yours.

A. Originally when I went to school, I wanted to do radiation therapy. When I sat in the clinicals, it was very hard for me because you see the same patients every day and if they don’t get better, it’s hard on your little heart. Here, in the hospital setting, you’re really helping someone through a big, difficult portion of their life and their illness.

There are three radiologic technologists, four interventional radiologists and two surgeons who participate in breast biopsies in the radiology department. When a patient comes in for a procedure, one of the three technologists is their guide from beginning to end. There is something about holding someone’s hand through something really scary, and comforting them through it. I think about if that was my mom or my grandma going through it. I’ve had friends’ parents on the table. I’ve had coworkers. I’ve had people that I know and care about.

So when I was asked if I wanted to take ownership of the Breast Center of Excellence designation, it was easy to say yes. There’s a lot of work involved, it’s a big process, but it’s going to be worth it for the people of Wyoming in the end.

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