Being a woman has its advantages. Beaufort Memorial Hospital just added another perk to the list.
The nonprofit health care provider is expanding its women's services to include a comprehensive imaging center for mammography and other breast care diagnostic testing, along with out-of-the-box educational programs designed to get women motivated to improve their health.
"We asked women what they wanted and they gave us their top priorities," said Karen Carroll, chief nursing officer and vice president of patient care services for Beaufort Memorial Hospital. "Breast health was their No. 1 concern."
The new initiative was developed in response to a series of focus groups conducted by the hospital. Women surveyed as part of the study requested a centralized facility for diagnostic testing. Currently, mammography screenings, bone density scans and ultrasounds are conducted in different areas of the hospital.
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Early next year, 4,100 square feet of office space in Beaufort Medical Plaza adjacent to the hospital will be renovated to include mammography, ultrasounds, DEXA scans and stereotactic biopsy, a procedure that uses a computer and a three-dimensional scanning device to remove a sample of a tumor.
In addition to the testing space, the center will include a comfortable waiting room, exam rooms, a conference room and the office of Beaufort Memorial Breast Care coordinator Ronda O'Connell, a registered nurse who helps women diagnosed with breast cancer navigate the treatment process.
Eventually, the hospital hopes to transition the facility into an accredited breast center. The National Accreditation Program for Breast Centers requires that hospitals meet 30 standards of care, ensuring patients receive the best possible treatment.
Along with the women's imaging center, the hospital has joined the Spirit of Women network, an elite coalition of American hospitals and health care providers committed to women's health education and community outreach.
This fall, the hospital will kick off the program with two "Girls' Night Out" events in recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The first event is from 5:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Hampton Lake in Bluffton. The next event will be from 5:30 to 10 p.m. Oct. 21 at the University of South Carolina Beaufort Performing Arts Center. For more information and to register for either event, go to www.bmhsc.com/spiritofwomen or call 843-522-5952.
Along with wine, chocolate and mini-spa services, hospital staff will be dishing out healthful advice on sleep, breast care and nutrition. But it won't be in the standard presentation format. The information will be delivered with a more hands-on approach.
For instance, rather than sitting through a lecture on the importance of breast self-examinations, women will have the opportunity to feel a model of a healthy breast and one with a lump simulating a fibroid or tumor to give them a better idea of what to look for when doing a self examination. Participants will also have the opportunity to ask questions about breast care in an informal setting.
A bra fitter from Belk will be on hand to take measurements and show participants how a properly fitting bra can improve posture and self-esteem. Women also will be invited to check out a display of stylish lingerie.