In Australia, colorectal cancer is the most commonly occurring internal cancer affecting both men and women, and the second most common cause of cancer-related death. Flexible sigmoidoscopy has not been commonly used as a screening tool in Australia due primarily to lack of resources. Until now, people at average risk of developing bowel cancer frequently undergo colonoscopy after referral to a specialist.
To fill an identified need, a nurse practitioner-led colorectal screening service providing fecal occult blood testing and flexible sigmoidoscopy, health education and promotion, patient counseling, information and a referral point for general practitioners, and a referral service for above average-risk patients was established in a South Australian metropolitan teaching hospital.
Establishment of this clinic required advanced and extended theoretical and clinical preparation for the nurse practitioner, as well as development of interdisciplinary relationships, referral processes, clinical infrastructure, and a marketing strategy. An audit of the first 100 flexible sigmoidoscopy patients revealed service and procedural outcomes that compared favorably with other colorectal screening services as well as a high level of patient satisfaction.