Nurses Affecting Change: It’s Who We Are and What We Do

March 3, 2022

The promotion of public health and public well-being are the stated goals of most health care organizations, but few organizations model these goals as sincerely as Nurses Affecting Change.

While breast cancer incidence rates of Black and White women are similar, death rates from breast cancer are higher among Black women compared to White women. For the past two years, even during the pandemic, Nurses Affecting Change has quietly and diligently continued their commitment to do all that they can to reduce breast cancer mortality among Black women in Southeastern Wisconsin.

“In 2010, after working in the community with Dr. Sandra Underwood from the University of Wisconsin- Milwaukee (UWM) College of Nursing and Julie Griffie from Froedtert Hospital Breast Center and providing education to our women about breast health and the importance of breast cancer screening, I felt the need to do even more.

“Many of our women told us that they had heard a lot about breast cancer and the importance of screening, yet, many of them had not been screened because they did not really understand how important it was for them,” said Bonnie Anderson, a nurse with Milwaukee Catholic Homes and program coordinator for Nurses Affecting Change.

Anderson said that some of the women shared that fear stopped them from getting screened. Others said that if they had breast cancer they did not want to know. Too many did not realize that screening and early detection of breast cancer are critical to breast cancer control.

“After discussing what we were hearing with several nurses in the local community Dr. Underwood, Julie and I started a breast cancer education and screening program. The Isaac Coggs Clinic offered us space to provide the education and screening. We provided women with literature designed specifically for Black women about the importance of breast health and breast cancer screening. We also gave them personal care products, gift cards, and information about where they could get mammograms.

“Our initial outreach efforts were extremely successful, so we sought funding to expand this initiative. Thanks to support we have received from the State of Wisconsin’s Well Women’s Program we were able to purchase the supplies and materials needed for our mobile breast health education and screening clinic,” said Anderson.

Nurses Affecting Change evolved from the commitment of a diverse group of nurses desiring to better serve the community. The nurses and health workers involved in the program have completed specialized training to ensure that they have skills and competencies essential to teach, screen, and serve women in the community. The nurses and health workers have earned the respect of community and health care advocates throughout the city.

Gale Johnson, Program Director for Wisconsin Well Women, lauds the efforts of Nurses Affecting Change.

“The Wisconsin Well Women Program partners with various organizations throughout the state. We have 72 counties in Wisconsin, so we cannot do everything or be everywhere. When there is an organization already working within the local community doing good things, like Nurses Affecting Change, it makes sense to put our resources in those communities. The fact that they are working so successfully within the local community is especially important. Nurses Affecting Change are the best. They go everywhere. They are outstanding,” said Johnson.

Julia Means, a Parish and Community Health Nurse for Ascension Columbia St. Mary’s, part of Ascension Wisconsin, and one of the coordinators for an annual women’s program at Ebenezer Church of God in Christ echoes Johnson’s praise about Nurses Affecting Change.

“I am a nurse, but breast cancer is not my specialty. When my church was planning their annual Women Supporting Women Mammogram Coach Day, I reached out to Bonnie and asked if her team would host the clinical breast exams. Nurses Affecting Change did the breast exams and provided women with gift bags that included personal care products, breast health reminders, and information and resources about breast cancer. They also set up exam rooms which enabled the nurses to quickly serve the women. They are a wonderful team. They give off such positive energy and show great patience working with the women. I really appreciate the attitude they take with the women because no matter what age or level the women are on, they are able to relate to them,” said Means.

Since the pandemic, Anderson admits that their activity has been curtailed, but not stopped completely. Anderson notes that during the last two years the 15 nurses who remain actively involved in the initiative have provided breast health education, clinical examinations, and mammography screening support to about 2,700 women.

“Our goal is to provide breast health education, breast cancer screening and support to underserved women and women in need. We set up our mobile clinic and provide breast health education and screening at community sites such as housing complexes, homeless shelters, community centers, churches, ethnic markets, or other congregant sites. We reach out to our women wherever they are. Our goal is to reduce breast cancer mortality among our Black women. During the pandemic, we have not stopped. Every Saturday we go someplace.

“Yes, fear continues to be a commonly expressed concern of our women. When our nurses and community workers encounter women who are fearful, they send them to me because I am a long term breast cancer survivor. I personally work with them and let them know and see that early detection can lead to a positive outcome,” said Anderson.

Nurses Affecting Change’s goal is to help women as soon as possible in whatever way is needed. If needed, they will accompany them to the doctor and follow up with them to encourage them along the journey.

When asked to elaborate even further about the group and the group’s activities Anderson replied, “Nurses Affecting Change is our name and it is also our mission. Nurses Affecting Change— it is who we are. It is what we do,” said Anderson.

For more information about Nurses Affecting Change or to schedule a program, interested individuals can call Anderson at (414) 745-4684.