Cancer Fighter: A Conversation With a Mammographer
In the first episode of “Skeleton Crew,” our host, Jennifer Callahan, talks to Jennifer Mossor, an X-ray tech with 11 years of experience.
Jennifer shares her passion for the field, from her first job as a traveling tech, where she attended a Stryker cadaver lab, to working in an outpatient center followed by hospital systems.
She currently works for a large group of orthopedic surgeons in their primary office.
Mossor is dual certified in mammography and has an interest in the field due to a family history of breast cancer. She also discusses the challenges and rewards of working in X-ray, and offers advice to aspiring techs.
Insights In This Episode
- How Mammography Saves Patient’s Lives, Even When They Don’t Realize it.
- Education: Comparing The Pros and Cons of a Career in X-Ray vs. Mammography When Selecting An Educational Path.
- Career: The Difficulties and Fun of Communicating With Patients
- Career: Overcoming Fear In Patients Who Have Had Previously Traumatic Mammography Experiences.
- Future: New Technology Advancements In Mammography And How They’ve Helped Mammographer’s Do Their Jobs Better
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Today’s Guest: Jennifer Mossor
Jennifer Mossor is a wife and a mother of two young toddlers.
She went into Xray when she was 21 and was grandfathered into the hospital based certification program which has been positive and negative at times.
She has been a working tech for 11 years. Jennifer is dual-certified in mammography.
She is one of three children in her family. The third sibling is one she recently found out about from DNA testing with 23 & Me. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with either her family and friends.
Featured on the Show
About Skeleton Crew
Skeleton Crew is the show for current and prospective techs in radiography and related modalities, exploring career options, life as a practicing tech, and the future of the practice. Each week, host Jen Callahan, ARRT interviews practicing rad techs, educators, business and industry leaders who are shaping radiology now and in the future.
[00:00:04] Jennifer Callahan (JC)
Welcome to the Skeleton Crew. I’m your host, Jen Callahan, a technologist with ten plus years experience. In each episode, we will explore the fast paced, ever changing suburbs. Completely crazy field of radiology. We will speak to technologists from all different modalities about their careers and education. The educators and leaders who are shaping the field today and the business executives whose innovations are paving the future of radiology. This episode is brought to you by X-ray technician Schools.com. If you’re considering a career in X-ray, visit X-ray technician Schools.com To explore schools and to get honest information on career paths, salaries and degree options. I’m here today on the first episode of a new podcast called Skeleton Crew.
This podcast will be all about things in the radiology field, lots of stuff about x ray. But then we’re also going to be exploring things in other modalities like Cat scan, mammography, MRI and everything else that you can think of in the world of radiology. Today, as my first guest, I have a great friend and a colleague. Her name is Jennifer Mosser. Jen, can you say hi? Hi, How are you? Good. Jen, I’m so happy that I was able to rope you into being my first guest. Jen and I have remained friends. Like over the past ten years. We’ve worked with each other two different times and two different health excuse me? Two different health systems. So that brings me to my first question, Jen. Can you tell me how long you’ve been an x ray tech?
[00:01:42] Jennifer Mossor (JM)
What kind of program did you go through?
So I went through a hospital based certificate program, so I don’t have a degree at all. But I was grandfathered in, which I don’t know if I don’t remember. Are you?
I do. I have an associate’s degree in radiography. I went to a community college for it.
Yeah. So, like, I went to Kroger. Their radiology program. So I was not offered a degree at the time. And as I was graduating, that was when they were mandating like everyone be affiliated with an actual college. So now they’re partnered with Weidner. So I only strictly carry my certificate.
And since you graduated from there, I mean, we talked about us both working in Health systems hospital based. But besides being in a hospital, what other type of work environments have you worked in?
So when I first started out, when I first graduated, I did pain management and I worked for a traveling pain management company that would physically actually deliver the to these facilities for them to operate. And then like, I wouldn’t deliver the machine, but I’d go with to the place with them to do it because it would be very heavy for me to be moving in a truck. So that was my first job, which was pretty interesting because I got to actually go to one of the I don’t know if there’s actually a multitude of Striker Labs, but the one that is in like it’s close to New York, like upstate New York. And I got to actually participate with a bunch of orthopedic surgeons doing like a cadaver lab, which was interesting. Um, then I had some outpatient experience and then everything after. That’s been pretty much like hospital based until recently. And, you know, working with the orthopedic surgeons at that private practice and there’s like 16 of them. Yeah.
Yeah. What would you say is like your favorite environment to work in?
So my favorite environment to work in right now, I’m really liking working with the orthopedic surgeons. I like doing like the mammography stuff as well that I was doing for the last few years. But it’s more stressful and we both have kids, so it’s like the outpatient world, I guess.
Yeah, yeah. It’s kind of like country club ish. Yeah, I’ve always enjoyed working at a hospital, but the one caveat with the hospital is like holidays call call.
I really liked working at Lankenau and like mainline health and stuff like that at the hospital, so it’s a hard like thing to pick between, you know, because I like both. I just I don’t like working holidays, though. I don’t think anyone does right now.
So. Mammography is another modality that you’ve gone into since you graduated from X-ray school. Yeah. Um, so between x ray and mammography, if you had to pick one, which one would you pick?
So if you had probably asked me a month ago, I would have strict, like strictly just said, mammography, because I fully love it, like, love every aspect of it, which I know to some people sounds weird because it can be they think it’s very repetitive, but it’s actually like not, you know, like and with my family history and I know, you know, you have experience with it too, Like it’s kind of something that I felt very good about myself every time I was leaving because I knew that, like, I was contributing to helping save someone’s life even if they weren’t fully aware of it. But like at the same point, like just performing the study in and of itself is saving someone’s life. So when I would leave, I felt such an overwhelming sense of like, Yeah, I did good today. Yeah, I changed the world today. Not that I don’t feel that way with x rays, because I do because we work together through like Covid and stuff. So like obviously I do with that. Doing like the orthopedic stuff is so different, but it’s very similar. So I’m enjoying that equally as much because I’m seeing people when they’re originally injured and then multiple follow ups throughout it. So I don’t feel like I’m losing that sense of like contribution to the world, I guess. Yeah.
And there’s a personal connection there too, especially now, like you said, like you’re seeing patients not on a regular basis, but you see them more than once because they’re coming in for follow ups and things like that. So you get to see the progression of their healing, I guess, really.
Which is neat. I get to hear the story of how they did it and all those little facts and how they feel and if they’re feeling good and if they’re feeling bad, you know?
Right. Yeah. So to circle back to I’m going to go to both modalities, I’m going to ask you, what’s your favorite x ray position or x ray study to perform? I guess position sounds kind of weird.
I mean, that’s what they are called. So I always have loved doing lumbar spines like the obliques. I don’t know. Something’s really satisfying when you see the Scotty dog and like realize it. Like it’s just like. Yes, kind of similar to like, working with the ortho doctors. They have us do like the trauma. Ap You know, with the external oblique of the hand, like with the shoulder for the Grashey type view. And then the Y is always like fun to me because when you get it, like on the first try, it’s like, yes, same as like an ardent Lloyd.
Right? I think getting a Y with a supine patient is like completely gratifying. Bam, I got that. Yeah.
Like when we would go up to like, like step down or like ICU and we would do one, like, with the portable machine and someone’s like, asleep and you’re doing it and you’re like, I don’t know how I just got that y to look that nice. Like, how did that.
You just like, walk away and you’re like, Yes, still got it right.
So if there was an x ray study or a position that you never had to do again, what would it be?
Okay, so we’re going fluoro, I’m sure.
I just don’t like barre minimus.
I’m sure a lot of people will concur with you on the fact of not ever wanting to do a barre.
And let’s just explain to anyone who might be listening or watching this. A barium enema is imaging of the large colon within the body. And it’s the imaging is obtained by. Placing into the anus and puts contrasting going backwards. So there you go. Just think of that. Right? Yes. Yep.
It’s like the same thing as the colonoscopy. Sort of. But like you’re awake and you’re still cleared out and then we fill you back up with gas mixed with water. Yeah. You roll around while this stays inside of you, But if that’s easy to do.
Right. All right. So switching gears, I don’t know much about mammography, but what would be your favorite mammo study or images that you take for that?
Okay. So study wise, I enjoy doing diagnostic patients more so than screening. Screening gets like very repetitive, but I still like doing it because I still have that interaction with the patients. It’s I mean, no one’s built the same, so it’s still always unique. But with the diagnostic work, like you’re following the patient through from like beginning to end, other places where I have worked, we had not like if I picked up Jen like you, your mammogram and you’re there for a problem, like I’m with her like literally well you the whole time. The entire time. So after I do your imaging, I get your history. I, you know, you tell me where you feel your lump, all that jazz. I bring all of your information, whether you have had a history of breast cancer, like if you had a lumpectomy, a mastectomy, a double mastectomy, just one side, whatever you had done, like all of those little details to the radiologist and I explained them to her and then she looks at my images and then tells me what else she wants from that point moving forward.
So you basically start out with like four views, like the normal four views that you would do and then proceed on. And I like that because. I just like the whole aspect of being with the patient throughout the whole time. Do you know what I mean? Like seeing the results. The only thing I dislike about it is when you see someone get upset because they have to have a biopsy or something like that, and they have a strong family history and they get very emotional. And it’s hard because you have to stay solid for them. But diagnostic mammograms, I prefer over screening mammograms and. What was the other question? Like position or like an imaging like I like doing When there’s calcifications, there’s magnification views and they’re kind of harder to get. There’s only like a really, really tiny cluster of like calcifications and like you have a very large breast and you’re like trying to figure out, okay, I need to mag just this one area. It’s almost like playing what’s that game Battleship like trying to figure out like where.
Because you have to look at like your original four images. And then usually there’s a 90 degree image, which is like a lateral. I guess you could compare it to an x ray world and like your. We’re responding like, okay, on this view, I see Calcs here and on this view I see them here and they’ll move according to like what clock they’re going to be on the breast. So it’s a little trickier. So I find it really satisfying when you get them on like a good picture on the first try.
So it sounds super challenging.
There’s a lot of like, okay, if these calcifications are at this position of the clock on, let’s say your MLA, which is like a like a 45, it’s not 45 for everyone or 40 for everyone. It’s different depending on like wherever their pec muscle is, like whatever that angle is. But you kind of have to understand that it moves like they will move depending on your picture.
Yeah, totally makes sense. All right, so let’s switch up something a little bit. Let’s do a fun question. If you could give a tip or a trick to someone who is a new tech coming into the field, what would it be?
Whenever you’re doing anything standing, spying, shoulders, anything where you’re like putting them at like a 45 degree angle or not even a 45 degree angle. Like any angle at all, always tell them to move their feet with their upper body because people tend to like lock their feet into the ground, you know, And then you’re like, you’re not. You didn’t actually, like, turn. You have to, like, want you to move your feet with your upper body, Right?
Or sometimes they just need to move their whole body, but they don’t get it and they just move their head.
Yeah. Or you’re like, move to the right. And then they turn to the right and you’re like, No, no, no. Physically lift your feet. I want you to move your body. Like take a side step to the right. And sometimes they still always turn. It’s probably nerves, but yeah.
No, I agree. Or sometimes, like when you’re like, turn to the left and they go like this.
Yeah, well, in mammography world, people you’d get you’d be like, okay, we’re going to start with this side. They would always take out like the opposite side of the side that you said you were going to start with. And a lot of people actually, for some reason, put their hands in their arms on the plate. That’s like something that’s interesting. Yeah.
It is. I’m always like, we’re not doing an x ray.
Right? Yeah. And you’re not going shopping on a shopping cart? Nope.
Not doing either of those things.
So since you and I have been in the x ray world, do you feel like technology and stuff has come, like, a long way? But have you seen, like, do you feel like there’s been definite progression of like technology from what 2012 is when we both graduated to now 2023? It’s 11 years later.
So when I look at the equipment that I was trained on, it’s different than what we used at the hospital we worked at in Coatesville. And that equipment is equivalent, but maybe it probably was slightly older than what we worked with together at Mainline Health. I mean, I think it came a long way because I’m working with older equipment right now and I think it’s fabulous that you can like. Lock, like detent tube and, like, move the buggy and like, the two of them move together. That was like one of the hardest things when I went back into it was like, because I don’t have that now, and I’m like, I actually physically have to move this here and then I have to physically move the tube. Like I’m like, This is weird. Like, I’m just not used to that. But I do think it has came a long way. I know that I had spoken with someone at one point throughout my career in mammography who worked for, I think it was Siemens. But I know that she was telling me that there was a lot of advances with the mammography equipment that was coming out in the next couple of years, but she was hush hush about it and would not tell me. But it was supposed to make the machines more user friendly, I guess. Probably like a lower dose of radiation and I’m assuming a clearer picture of some sort. But I don’t know all the details about that because she wouldn’t tell me.
Definitely think that there’s been strides in, like, technology. I mean, like. Cr cassettes were in play and then things were like slowly switching over to digital and now everything is digital. You can’t even have CR I don’t think like you’re you’d be accredited if you didn’t use VR for imaging any longer. So I definitely agree with you that there’s been strides with that. And I’m sure especially too with like Mama, with, you know, with how prevalent and how aware everyone is of like breast cancer and stuff. I feel like definitely in the past, like at least ten years, it’s just the awareness has gotten better.
Which is definitely a good thing. It definitely needs to be on more people’s radar. Some people don’t even know when they’re supposed to start having mammograms or they don’t know about their family history and stuff like that. Yeah, they don’t want to know where they’re so terrified to go because of their family history. They actually have full blown panic attacks when they get in the room, sometimes have people faint a lot.
Because they’re nervous or like from like the pressure of the.
Old, a multitude of things. The people who seem to pass out the most are usually patients who went somewhere and they had a. Rough tech. I’ve even had patients not like they have chaperones that are allowed to come in the room with me because that’s how afraid they are that someone will hurt them again the way that they’ve been hurt.
It is. But at the same point, it’s like it’s hard because you have to compress the breast to be able to see cancer. So it’s not to say that you can’t see it without full compression because like you can sometimes, but to get the best imaging you need to have the compression, you have to have the breast compressed until it’s taut. If it’s not, then it’s there’s room for motion and there’s so many ducts and things inside of your breast that can just kind of like overlap and hide things.
Yeah, it’s a hard battle. Do you have any good stories that you’d like to share? Like from x ray or Mama or anything like that?
Yeah. One was when I first started working with you. This is a good one. I don’t know if you remember this, but I went out into the outpatient waiting room, and I. The guy’s name was Jesus.
You were gonna say that?
Was. There was, like, 30 people.
In there, and I’m like, Jesus. That happened. You remember that? That was that was one of the most I mean, if I didn’t have a sense of humor, that would have brought me down, like a lot of steps. But that was a good one. My second, like, favorite story is like one time when I was doing a mammogram, I had this woman compressed and she just pulled my hair and I was like. So we were both kind of looking at each other and she’s looking at me and I’m looking at her and I’m like. You okay? She was like, I just wanted to see if it was real.
And thought, what if it wasn’t real?
Like, for real? You just pulled my wig off.
Like I had extensions in or something.
Oh, my God. That’s crazy. I don’t think you ever told me that.
She complimented me and said she really liked it. It was so pretty. But I was like. Okay. Like we can keep going. Please don’t pull my hair again. Yeah, it’s there.
All right. So we’re running out of time. I just have one more question. So would you say that your choice to go into radiography and to imaging was, let’s say, a smart choice or a good choice, but would you do your choice again?
I go back and forth with this so many times because I feel like working in a hospital in radiology for the longevity of it, it can be hard on your body. You know, I’m sure you feel that blood is heavy. So with that aspect in mind, like I’m I’m happy that I went the route that I have went. Like to either have the potential to be doing mammography or the potential like I’m working with orthopedic surgeons and I’m not moving stretchers doing 900 portables in a day, but you know what I mean? Like it feels like that at the end of the day being like paged and having to run from here to there and like, it hurts your back. Best advice I can give anybody who wants to do it get new balances.
And take care of your back because it affects your back. But yeah, I would still do it. Like when I do talk to people about it, the career is great when you have kids working and having your kids, it’s very flexible, especially if you’re at a hospital. All of those things are perks and then continue your education.
Yeah, I agree with you with that. The flexibility of it is I mean, because Jen and I both have families and we both have children, and I can definitely attest to the flexibility, nature and it being good for like a family life. I mean, now you’re, you know, if you’re working in a hospital or somewhere that’s had like off shifts, like you might be working weekends, you might be working nights, but sometimes that’s what you need.
Yeah. And you get paid more to work those, those weekend shifts anyway, because usually they’re like set weekend people. So it sounds awful when you’re applying for it, but you’re going to get paid more money, right? Yeah, do it. And you can get like a good 24 hours and basically like two days at almost any trauma hospital that you go to. Right.
All right. Well, we’re going to wrap up. Jen, thank you so much for being with us.
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