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A Rose for Emily … and Jennifer and Maria and …

By Drema Drudge

At the Whitley and Warsaw Parkview Physician's Group of Indiana centers, women who come in for mammograms receive something special after their screening: a rose. In 2015, the percentage of women aged 40 and older who had a mammogram within the past two years was only 65.3%, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That's a discouraging percentage. Some women don't schedule regular exams because they don't have insurance; others fear discomfort or, ultimately, unwelcome news. If giving the women who do come in roses helps them return regularly to get the recommended screenings, that's a potentially significant gesture.

Mary Boyer says that getting a rose after her mammogram at Parkview "made me feel special. I got a white rose, and I kept smelling it all the way to my car and on the way home." She says that when she got home, she snipped the flower's end and put the rose in water, where it continued to make her happy for days. "It was nice to get a flower."

To her, the flower was "a symbol of love and passion. Caring. And strength for women." While she says she wouldn't go back for another mammogram at Parkview just to get a rose, she says she'd be a little disappointed if she didn't get one after her next visit. She is planning to return.

Amanda Lord, MSOL, RT(R)(CT), manager of diagnostic imaging at both Parkview Whitley and Parkview Warsaw Hospitals, says, "This practice began at Parkview Whitley Hospital to serve as an extra touch for our patients, a sign of caring and compassion. It is a small gesture that we've learned has a big, positive impact. What woman would not like a rose?"

The hospitals have been handing out the flowers for nearly 10 years to overwhelmingly positive reactions. "The women love them! It really makes someone's day, especially if they were given bad news," Lord says.

According to Jessica Miller, public relations manager for Parkview Health, "The roses that are handed out at Parkview Whitley and Parkview Warsaw are funded through donations to the Parkview Whitley Foundation."

Lord says the mammography department's roses are also, if needed, shared with patients of other departments. "I was helping a patient who was given disappointing news about her unborn baby and I gave a rose to her," Lord says. "It is so nice to see someone smile after they have been crying." That's just as valid and important a practice to Lord as handing them out after mammograms. She encourages mammography techs to do the same if they see a patient elsewhere in the facility who needs sympathy.

"Our mammography techs know that if they have a patient who may need some cheering up, it is absolutely okay to give that patient a rose," Lord says. "No questions asked."

Pictured: Kristi Desenberg, mammography technologist; Amanda Lord, manager; and Lauren Sprunger, mammography technologist. Image courtesy of Warsaw Parkview Physicians Group.

Parkview, Lord says, intends to continue giving out flowers. "Even though it is a small gesture, it makes a big impact on the overall experience of each of our patients. I have had patients call me after their visit to say how wonderful it was to get a rose and that it made their day." 

Because many women who work at Parkview also get mammograms, Lord says the roses are a gift that are enjoyed in-house as well. "In the workplace, our own coworkers are also offered a rose after their visit, and it's not uncommon to see their roses displayed on their desk," she says.

Roses also play a part at Wake Radiology in North Carolina. The facility recently announced that they will partner for the 11th year with the Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure. Wake will host an educational tent at the race for participants to view footage of a rose that has been subjected to both traditional and 3D mammograms to highlight the detection differences in the procedures, thus helping women decide which procedure might be right for them.

At the tent, women will be asked to sign the Rose Pledge. Wake is hosting this six-week campaign to ask women to agree to get a mammogram within 12 months of signing up. As a reward for pledging, the women will be entered in a drawing to win roses every month for a year.

Roses, a low-cost but effective gesture, can spread cheer and make for a memorable screening visit. They can serve as a reminder—or explanation, in the case of Wake—of the mammogram for the patient and offer an incentive to schedule annually.

And they spread smiles.

Other mammography facilities would do well to consider whether roses might have a place in their own public relations repertoire.

Drema Drudge is a freelance writer specializing in health and wellness. She's also an agented fiction writer and writing coach. Read more about her at dremadrudge.com or writingallthethings.com