“Living in a rural community comes with wonderful benefits and some challenges,” says Eileen Beeso, both a resident and nurse practitioner of Newfoundland and Labrador’s beautiful Bell Island – home of three communities on the Avalon Peninsula. “My primary goal is to get women to participate more regularly in cervical screening, regardless of the barriers small towns may bring.”
For over 30 years, Eileen has been a dedicated registered nurse, and since 1994, a proud employee of Eastern Health.
October 22-28, 2017 is Pap Test Awareness Week – a precious opportunity to remind women of the importance of getting regular Pap tests.
Cervical cancer is 90 per cent preventable, but did you know that the main risk factor is NOT getting regular Pap tests?
Brushing up on Pap stats
Pap test statistics for Newfoundland and Labrador show that a third of the female population do not participate in getting regular Pap tests. Additionally, for many rural communities across the province, the percentage of women who are under-screened or have never been screened is even higher – nearly 39 per cent.
Providing the best possible primary health care for people living in rural communities can be tough though – this rings true for many rural areas across Canada.
Primary health care includes services that promote health and wellness; prevent illness; treat health issues or injuries; and diagnose and manage chronic health conditions. It involves interactions with a variety of health-care providers such as family doctors, nurses, pharmacists and many others, using resources appropriately, efficiently and in a cost-effective way.
Eileen has broadened her scope of practice to become a nurse practitioner in 2006. Still to this day, she believes that becoming a nurse practitioner has enabled her to help address the health-care needs of and improve the overall health of Bell Island’s population. By pursuing her dream of becoming a nurse practitioner, Eileen embraced working in her home town – the place she knows well and loves very much.
“Residents of small towns may often face barriers such as access to health-care programs or services; high unemployment rates; or lack of personal privacy in the community – simply because everyone knows everyone,” exclaims Eileen. “Barriers like these can make it hard at times for women to come in and get checked. At Eastern Health, we are working diligently to change that, and we try to accommodate women’s needs as best we can.”
Woman to woman
Eileen adds that next to Dr. Alexa Laurie, a well-known and longstanding physician on Bell Island, she is the only other female health practitioner. These ladies are essentially the “belles of women’s health” on Bell Island!
“For many different personal reasons, women often prefer to be seen by female practitioners,” says Eileen. “That’s why it’s so important that we use all available resources on the Island effectively and efficiently. Teamwork among health-care professionals is key to keeping our population healthy.”
Eileen is a big believer in health promotion. She is also known in her community for taking a holistic approach to providing health care.
Eileen explains that two key functions of her current role is being both an educator and facilitator. She has been perfecting these functions since she officially became a nurse practitioner in 2006.
“Providing patients, clients, families and communities education about illness prevention is something I am wholeheartedly committed to,” says Eileen. “I also take great pride in being a resource to my peers in health care because that’s how we strengthen our abilities to collaborate and function as a team.”
Knowledge is power
Eileen has collaborated with the provincial Cervical Screening Initiatives program for many years. As both a female and a nurse, her mission is to have all the women of Bell Island understand the importance of cancer screening and the reasons why regular Pap testing should be completed.
“Facilitating Pap tests is more than just providing care to women,” says Eileen. “It’s about helping women become responsible for their own health, and providing them with the resources necessary to make informed decisions about their bodies to live longer, healthier lives.”
As an educator in women’s health, Eileen reminds women that unless your doctor tells you otherwise:
- to start Pap testing at age 21;
- complete a Pap test once a year for three years in a row. If all results are normal, you should have a Pap test every three years; and
- if you have an abnormal Pap history, to continue with yearly Pap testing.
Other ways to help prevent cervical cancer include:
- reducing your number of sexual partners;
- reducing or quitting smoking;
- practicing safe sex and wearing a condom;
- delaying the initial age of sexual intercourse; and
- getting a Human papillomavirus (HPV) vaccine.
A blitz by the belles
Eileen and Dr. Laurie are urging all women to get their Pap tests completed. In fact, the “belles of women’s health” will be offering a walk-in Pap blitz-clinic for the ladies of Bell Island – no appointments are necessary!
When: Wednesday, October 25, 2017
Time: 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Location: Dr. Walter Templeman Health Centre
“Don’t be shy, your life may depend on it,” says Eileen. “Please share this life-saving opportunity with the special women you know on Bell Island. If you are 21 years of age or older, Dr. Laurie and I can’t wait to see you there!”
Ladies of Newfoundland and Labrador, are you due for a Pap test? For a cervical screening clinic near you, please check out where to get a Pap test!
Happy Pap Test Awareness Week! #cervicalscreen ■
This article was written by Susan White, cervical screening coordinator, and Zelda Burt, communications manager with Eastern Health.