Pap smears, a vital part of women’s health care, can be a source of anxiety for many. However, with the proper preparation and understanding, the experience can be made more comfortable and less daunting.
Understanding and empathetic doctors should be aware of these feelings in their patients and aim to make the pap smear process as comfortable and stress-free as possible, both mentally and physically. Explore the following strategies to help your patients prepare for their pap smear.
Ask Your Patient to Urinate Before Their Pap Smear
It’s a good idea to recommend that your patient empty their bladder before the procedure for added comfort. However, this can be a bit of a balancing act, especially if you need to collect urine samples later and your patient is unable to provide one.
To overcome this, inform the staff member who escorts your patient to the exam room that the patient would like to use the restroom. This way, you can collect a urine sample first if needed, ensuring your patient is comfortable during the exam while still meeting all the procedural requirements.
Provide Privacy and Show Empathy
Ensure that patients have sufficient privacy to prepare for the procedure. Consider outfitting your facility with a private changing room with a storage area for their clothing, medical gowns or disposable wrap skirts and slippers to change into, and feminine hygiene wipes after the exam. This can help your patient feel more at ease and in control.
You should also give them time to comfortably position themselves on the table while being sensitive to any discomfort or embarrassment they may feel during such intimate examinations.
As a practitioner, it’s important to always knock before entering the examination room. Create a supportive atmosphere by speaking in a gentle manner and maintaining appropriate eye contact to build rapport.
Explain How a Speculum Works
Doctors rely on the speculum for gynecological exams, particularly for pap smears. However, even the appearance of the speculum can make some patients feel anxious, especially if it is their first pelvic exam. Gently explaining how the speculum works can help alleviate some of the concerns that they may have.
Explain how this medical device is carefully designed to delicately open the vaginal walls, and how this allows you to see the cervix clearly and collect cell samples for testing. Let them know that speculum tools are available in various sizes and can be made from either metal or plastic, and that you choose one that fits their body type for maximum comfort.
Ensure you lubricate the speculum before insertion to make the process as smooth and comfortable as possible. Once inserted, carefully open it to a width that’s comfortable for the patient, being mindful never to overextend it to avoid discomfort.
Offer Your Patients a Choice Between Metal vs. Disposable Speculums
Speculums come in two main varieties: reusable metal and disposable plastic. Patients need to be aware of the differences and given a choice.
In a 2017 study, 41% of respondents preferred the plastic speculum over the metal one, and 6 out of 7 respondents who preferred a plastic speculum cited the cold temperature as the primary reason for their discomfort.
Explain to your patients that metal speculums are sterilized and reused, while disposable speculums are used once and then discarded. Your patient may prefer disposable speculums if concerned about the metal’s coldness or possible allergic reactions. They are also considered more hygienic since they are single-use.
Nella speculums are crafted from temperature-neutral polycarbonate with an ultra-smooth texture, offering maximum patient comfort.
Choose the Right-Sized Speculum
Using a properly lubricated speculum and the right size can significantly reduce discomfort during the procedure. As a practitioner, it’s essential to consider the patient’s individual case, including their age, reproductive history, and any past pelvic exams, to choose the most suitable speculum size. This personalized approach can help make the exam more comfortable for the patient.
The slim-shaped Nella speculum is designed to be as narrow as a tampon, ensuring patient comfort regardless of their life stage.
Ensure Your Patient is Warm
To improve your patients’ experiences, it’s important to maintain a comfortable temperature in the examination room. Aim for a room temperature of at least 68°F; however, you may need to raise the temperature slightly as many women are more sensitive to the cold.
Additionally, use a lubricant that has been gently warmed to improve the comfort of the procedure. You can also offer warm blankets to patients to help them feel more relaxed and at ease with the environment during the procedure.
Suggest your patient purchase the Nella comfort kit before their exam. It comes with reusable plush socks to keep their feet warm on cold examination room floors and while in the stirrups. A disposable speculum is included. The kit can be delivered straight to your practice, so it is ready for use when the patient arrives for their appointment.
Encourage Relaxation Techniques
Advise your patients to try deep breathing exercises or visualization techniques to help them relax and reduce any discomfort they might feel during the test. For instance, suggest that they practice deep abdominal breaths while picturing a peaceful beach or tranquil scenery.
Engaging in these simple mental exercises can help lessen anxiety and avoid tensing up, making the pap smear test a more comfortable experience for them.
Improve Patient Comfort and Engagement in Cervical Health
Making the experience of getting a pap smear as comfortable and informative as possible is key to patient satisfaction and positive healthcare outcomes. Making patients feel more comfortable during an exam can encourage them to be more proactive about regular cervical health screenings.
Help support your patients’ gynecological health by purchasing and using comfortable Nella speculums in your practice. Explore our range of disposable and non-disposable options today.