CORNER BROOK It may be a bit of a strange title to hold, but Carla Gillam is proud to be the top cervical screener for the province.
“It’s nice,” said Gillam, a community health nurse with Western Health and nurse examiner with the Cervical Screening Initiatives Program. “It’s nice to see that people are accessing the service and our numbers are up.”
In the past year, Gillam performed over 900 cervical screenings, or Pap tests, for women in this region. It’s that number that earned her the Top Screener for Cervical Screening Initiatives award for the province.
But Gillam said it really doesn’t matter who provides the service, as long as women are getting screened.
“We’re here to promote it and we want you to get this service for your own health,” said Gillam. “I feel good about the fact that women do feel it is a need, because obviously the numbers are there.
“We’ve been plugging on this for a long time.”
The initiative started in 1996 as a pilot project in the western region to increase screening rates, and has since expanded provincewide.
Gillam said nurse examiners were put in place to make the service more accessible to women and to make it more comfortable for any who were hesitant of having the test performed by their family doctor.
Gillam has been performing cervical screenings since 1999. At first she said it was more of an extension of her community health nursing position, which involved travelling around the region.
“Depending on where I was working, if there was a need I could offer that service to that area. And if there was an underscreened area I would do it.”
In 2007 the Cervical Screening Initiatives Program set up a clinic in Corner Brook in the Western Health building on Herald Avenue. Gillam now splits her time between the clinic and her community nursing duties.
Gillam said any women over the age of 20 who are sexually active can avail of the service. Women are advised to have a Pap test once a year for three years in row. If all results are normal, then women can begin having Pap tests every three years. Women with abnormal history or other health concerns may be advised to continue yearly testing.
Besides performing screenings, nurse examiners also provide information about other health concerns for women, including breast health. Gillam will often encourage women who meet the criteria for the provincial breast screening program to avail of that service in the clinic, which is located next door.
In her role as a community health nurse, Gillam promotes the services of the initiative by talking about it whenever the opportunity arises.
Gillam has been named top examiner in the region a few times, but this is a first for the provincial title. She’ll receive her award on Friday at the Corner Brook Status of Women Council’s International Women’s Day Bread and Roses Dinner at the Royal Canadian Legion.
Gaylene Buckle, general manager of Theatre Newfoundland Labrador, will be the keynote speaker for the event, which starts at 6:30 p.m.