A new report released by the Victorian Cervical Cytology Registry indicates that the number of nurses in Victoria who have undertaken training allowing them to take Pap tests is growing dramatically year on year, jumping from 185 in 2000 to 418 in April 2010.
"The growing number of nurses who can take Pap tests is great news for the women we know are most at risk," said Lea Rawlings, PapScreen Victoria Manager.
"Many women tell us that they prefer to see a female provider for health issues such as Pap tests. As such, nurses have become an integral part of the national cervical screening program, because they largely tend to be female. This is particularly the case in more rural areas, where there can be a shortage of female GPs."
"Currently only 62.3% of Victorian women have a Pap test every two years as recommended. That means that well over a third of women are not accessing this life-saving test."
"We'd certainly like to see even more nurse Pap test providers across all types of practice."
"We think that the growing number of nurse Pap test providers will have a positive impact on the current low screening rates, which in turn will help to reduce the incidence of cervical cancer," concluded Ms Rawlings.
The number of Pap tests taken by nurses across the state has increased correspondingly, with nurses taking 4.4% or 25,595 of Victoria's Pap tests in 2009. Back in 1996, nurses took only 0.8% or 5170 of Pap tests in Victoria.
Rural areas have seen the most dramatic growth in cervical screening by nurses, with the percentage of total Pap tests taken in areas such as the Grampians and Loddon Mallee jumping by up to 5.1% since 2007, compared to a 0.4% increase in metropolitan areas.
Nurse Pap test providers are best represented in General Practice, last year taking 14,123 Pap tests in this setting.
"Nurse Pap test providers also shine in some other important ways," said
Sandy Anderson, PapScreen Victoria Nurse Consultant.
"Nurses are more likely to screen the women we know are most at risk, such as women who are overdue for their Pap test, and older women."
The rapid growth in the number of nurse Pap test providers, and their skill in taking Pap tests can to a large extent be attributed to a credentialling program administered by PapScreen Victoria, and regular professional development workshops run by the organization for nurses.
"Once nurses have completed an accredited Pap test provider training course, they are ‘credentialled' by PapScreen Victoria, enabling them to practice. Their clinical results are then assessed every three years to maintain high standards," added Ms Anderson.
Division 1 Registered Nurses interested in becoming a Pap test provider can find more information at www.papscreen.org.au - click on the health professionals section.
Women can find their nearest nurse Pap test provider by visiting www.papscreen.org.au or calling the Cancer Council Helpline on 13 11 20.