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Pap tests by credentialled nurses double in a decade

Wednesday 9 April, 2008

Latest data from the Victorian Cervical Cytology Registry* show the number of Pap tests taken by nurses has doubled over the last ten years, highlighting the integral role nurse Pap test providers play in cervical cancer prevention, and the increasing demand for credentialled nurses.**

18,651 Pap tests were taken by 344 credentialled nurses in 2007, representing 3.2 per cent of total Pap tests taken in the state, up 0.4 per cent from the previous year.

‘More than 33% of women screened by nurses were six months to two years overdue for their Pap test or had not had one at all, which is very pleasing considering nearly 90% of women who develop cervical cancer either never had a Pap test or did not have them regularly,' said Sandy Anderson, a consultant nurse for PapScreen Victoria.

‘89 per cent of Pap tests taken by nurses were from rural DHS regions, this is a testament to the accessibility of nurses through a variety of health settings such as general practice, community health services, women's health services, hospitals and sexual health services,' said Ms Anderson.

‘Nurses also provide a much needed alternative in areas where there may be a GP shortage, or lack of female GPs, and often nurses are able to offer longer consultation times,' added Ms Anderson.

Nurse Pap test quality remains very high, with 79.9 per cent of tests including an endocervical component, compared to 76.4 per cent of tests taken by other practitioner types (GPs or gynaecologists).

‘It is extremely important for Pap tests to contain an endocervical component, as this is the area where abnormalities that may lead to cancer are most likely to develop. The high quality of Pap tests taken by nurses is due to the training provided through the credentialing program supported by PapScreen Victoria and provided through the Royal College of Nursing, Australia,' added Ms Anderson.

* Evaluation of Pap tests collected by nurses in Victoria during 2007, March 2008.

** In Victoria, a nurse must become ‘credentialled' before being able to take Pap tests, and is ‘re-credentialled' every three years to maintain practice standards.

For information on how to become a qualified nurse Pap test provider or to locate your closest nurse Pap test provider, visit the PapScreen website at