Incredibly Easy blog

The Incredibly Easy blog will expand on selected topics presented in the print journal.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Focus on women's health

Women’s health isn’t just a slightly different version of men’s health, and screening, diagnostics, and medication regimes aren’t necessarily the same for men and women. It’s crucial for women to know their bodies, including normal growth and development, and what to expect from their healthcare providers. Our goal as nurses is to assist female patients in identifying needed preventive care and health screenings across the lifespan. These issues encompass topics such as bone health, cardiac health, fertility, contraception, childbirth, breast health, intimate partner violence, smoking cessation, and menopause.

Expecting women to take responsibility for their healthcare necessitates that we empower them. We must provide opportunities to teach female patients and encourage them to be clear in their expectation of their healthcare providers. 

As a women’s health nurse practitioner, many of the procedures required for my patient population involve intimate and personal issues. When a female patient presents for care, I spend time developing a rapport and providing details about what exams or procedures are indicated and why. I start every pelvic exam with a discussion about the woman being in charge, even in the vulnerable lithotomy position. I explain every step of the exam before touching the patient. I also take time to explain that if she’s ever in a healthcare situation in which she feels uncomfortable or disrespected, she’s to say so and stop the exam. 

As nurses, we have an opportunity to empower women to ask questions about their health, and the health of their children, in a safe environment. We also have the opportunity to teach women what to expect with their healthcare experiences. Failure to provide a safe environment without judgment or criticism prevents open and meaningful conversation with patients.

Suggestions for creating an environment conducive to patient care for women include:

• Make eye contact. Focus on your patient and not the chart or computer screen.

• Listen to the entire story.

• Don’t be judgmental.

• Provide privacy for conversations and exams.

• Don’t assume that your female patient wants those accompanying her to hear her history or concerns.

• Know the community resources that might benefit your patient.

• Be up to date on screening recommendations for women’s health.

• Welcome your patient’s children to exams (she may not have childcare).

• Assess issues such as transportation, money for prescriptions, and social support.


By Barbara Jared, MSN, RN, WHNP-BC

Assistant Professor of Nursing

Tennessee Technological University

Whitson-Hester School of Nursing

Cookeville, Tenn.