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During our 20th year, we’re speaking to people who have been supporting us throughout the years. Jenny Greenfield is a Practice Nurse Manager in East Sussex and has held many nursing and teaching roles in primary care since 1989. She has trained hundreds of nurses in cervical screening and women’s health.
After 30 years of working in cervical screening, I am sad to see that attendance rates have been declining so rapidly. I feel that women are so often the ones who are looking after many different people and are juggling a lot of things. This means our own health sometimes waits until last. We know it’s not just busy lifestyles that prevent women from attending and there are so many factors which can impact attendance, however I try to encourage people to view screening as a way of looking after yourself.
I do worry about aspects of what’s happening in cervical screening at the moment, for example there are still very long waiting times for results in parts of the country, including my own. But it’s also an exciting and positive time to be part of the screening programme, with advancements like self-testing on the horizon, plus the success of the HPV vaccine becoming evident. My involvement with Jo’s has also been something which has evolved a lot over time, it’s been fantastic to have been involved with the charity for so long and see all it has achieved.
My nursing career began before Jo’s was founded. In 1989, I worked in a GP’s surgery which was literally in the GP’s family home. The waiting room was the living room, the GP’s room was the dining room and my room was the bathroom! I worked there and in the district for several years, until I went back to university to do some more training. I get restless and am always looking for the next challenge. That came in the form of becoming a lecturer at the University of Brighton.
I began to run courses to train nurses in how to carry out cervical screening, covering a huge geographical area and mentoring many new nurses. I then became a Nurse Consultant for cervical screening and immunisations, working with many groups of local women. I would go out into the community to work with women who didn’t otherwise have much access to healthcare and talk to them about all aspects of sexual health. With all this experience, I was able to devise guidelines and protocol on how to carry out screening. It was a huge role and I loved it.
Naturally, Jo’s had been on my radar for a long time. When I first got involved over ten years ago, I helped by reviewing information materials about cervical screening, including advising on how these should be worded, and creating videos about what happens during the test to make sure they were as accurate as possible.
I joined Jo’s ‘Ask the Expert’ panel to further utilise some of the knowledge I’ve gained over the years and help to provide answers to the growing number of people who use this fantastic service. Most of my enquiries are questions about cervical screening and it’s great to be able to make women feel more in control about the test and set their minds at ease. I love being part of a team who are dedicated to what they do and knowing that I am helping.
I’ve always wanted to give back to Jo’s because I feel that they recognise how important the role of a practice nurse is. Some patients have the idea that the practice nurse is not as knowledgeable as the GP yet when it comes to cervical screening, this often isn’t true! With me and plenty of other practice nurses, you are in the best hands you could be.
I also work as a media volunteer for Jo’s, spreading the word and raising awareness far and wide. I was very happy to be asked to be in Zoe Sugg’s (Zoella) video about her most recent smear test. We spent lots of time discussing all of her questions before we even began the test, something which I think is really important for anyone who comes for screening. I’m so pleased that this opportunity meant we could reach an even wider audience – especially as it was mainly aimed at a younger audience, enabling them to feel more informed before they even go for their first cervical screening.
I think that the cervical screening programme needs to innovate further - to develop into something that is more patient-focussed. Self-sampling is a great idea and it really could help lots of people who find it hard to get to the GP because of their busy lives, or people who find the test painful or difficult.
Also, I hope that someone manages to redesign the speculum! The ‘duck beak’ has been around for so many years – even though it’s no longer cold and metal, it’s still the most intimidating thing about the test for many people. I’d love someone to come up with a more ingenious device!
It may sound strange, but cervical screening is my love! I am so passionate about it and I firmly believe that the future of cervical screening is positive. Now that we know how effective the HPV vaccine is, we know that we can reduce the number of cases of cervical cancers. With higher uptake of screening, we can reduce it even further, and I look forward to being a part of that.