Nurse Practitioner and Cervical Screening Trainer, Linda Kirby

Linda Kirby is a Nurse Practitioner at TRUE and Queensland Health in Central Queensland. Linda has specialist knowledge in emergency, clinical forensic medicine, sexual and reproductive health with a particular focus on women's health. Linda aims to provide an inclusive and sex positive space to ensure the best health outcomes for her clients.

We wanted to interview Linda to help others understand why Nurse Practitioners can be involved in cervical screenings and the benefits to visiting a Nurse Practitioner in the future.

What is the difference between a registered nurse and a nurse practitioner?

A Nurse Practitioner is a registered nurse who has been working in their speciality area for over 5 years, and has completed a graduate certificate/diploma in that area of specialised work. They then go on for a further 2 years enrolled in a masters degree to complete their masters of nurse practitioner. Once completed they are able to request pathology and radiology; Diagnose; Script patients; refer patients to specialists and collaborate with doctors and allied health clinicians.

Is there any reason we would choose to have our cervical screening by a doctor over a nurse practitioner?

Not at all, Nurse practitioners who specialise in sexual and reproductive health such as myself are able to provide the exact same service. We do normally have the luxury of time which our GP colleagues traditionally don’t. We are able to refer to specialists if it is required or identified in the consultation.

What does your day to day at work look like?

It starts with coffee! Then I can see 10-15 patients in my clinic room throughout the day. My patients I routinely see are people requesting education, insertion and scripting for contraception (The pill, depo-ralovera, Implanon and inter-uterine
devices), Heavy menstrual bleeding, Pelvic pain (Endometriosis, Polycystic ovaries etc), Pregnancy, Unplanned pregnancy and abortion care, menopause and of course cervical screening! (I’m a sexologist as well so I may have a sprinkling of sex therapy sometimes in there).

Do you have any tips for other nurses and doctors performing cervical screenings?

When I teach cervical screenings my students know this phrase by the end of the course- “Its never just a cervical screen”. Create a clinic room space where your patient feels safe and is willing share their medical and personal history with you. It’s a great opportunity to empower patients with the knowledge regarding HPV and the national screening register guidelines. Take your time, get a really good past medical history from the patient- this may include previous trauma which can
really impact the delivery of your care. To be able deliver trauma informed practice will yield the best results for your patient. Remember to communicate well, I love to take the time to show my patients the tools I’ll be using (if that’s something they are interested in).

cervical screening tools

I always show people how soft the bristles are to the brush so they aren't worried about any pain.


What do you find most people are nervous about when having their cervical screening?

When people are nervous its for a few reasons… it can be because of previous bad experiences having speculum examinations, previous trauma, the fear of the unknown (never had a cervical screening before), concerned that their vulva doesn’t look “normal”.

What tips do you have for those feeling nervous about booking their screening?

1) You’re in charge!
2) Ask lots of questions if you don’t understand
3) Before your appointment write down any questions you have- then if you have stage fright you can remember all those questions
3) If you don’t mesh with the clinician use a directory such as the Get Papped Practitioner Directory to find a clinician who aligns with you… its okay to pass on the examination on the day if you don’t feel comfortable.

Do you have any tips to help make a cervical screening more comfortable? Definitely finding a clinician that aligns with you and searching out a clinician that creates a safe space for you to feel comfortable in sharing your medical history, any previous trauma but also the ability for you to feel like you can ask questions.


If you'd like to learn more about Linda's work take a look at her instagram account @the_healthy_sex_np