"The nurse could have been more understanding and patient"

About: Royal Infirmary of Edinburgh at Little France / Gynaecology

(as the patient),

After receiving a letter in mid 2014 stating I had an abnormal smear and required to attend a colposcopy appointment, I was understandably worried.

I brought my husband to the clinic, met with the nurse in charge of conducting the colposcopy and discussed my fears with her.

From the outset, she seemed nice but fairly dismissive of my concerns.

My husband sat behind the curtain whilst I undressed and hopped on the couch.

Once in stirrups, the colposcopy was performed, with the HCA holding my hand for support. I was told whilst equipment was still inside me that I required LLETZ on the spot. I did not have time to register this information and became anxious, but the nurse said it was better to just get it done now, and advised me she would be injecting local anesthetic directly into the cervix. I quickly let her know that as a rule, I do not have the usual reaction to the Lidocaine (at the dentist this usually takes some time to work and sometimes I need top ups) again this nurse was dismissive and said we would see how we go.

I personally feel she did not allow enough time to let the medication work (trying to rush the appointment? ) because she started fairly quickly and almost immediately I hit the roof as the hot wire cut through me. I was told I couldn't possibly be feeling this, and that I was probably having a "vasavagal" episode, and that I had to relax or she would accidently burn my external labia. I advised the nurse I was not flinching through necessity but that I felt the raw heat from the wire, and I was then given more Lidocaine. She then carried on, and again I found this painful. I was distressed, crying and felt extremely violated, yet it carried on with the understanding that it's better to keep going. As this nurse knew my career, she kept mentioning that while doing my treatment, as if to say "you have to do certain treatments, you should be able to do this". I found this quite offensive because I do not feel the relevance of relating my career to what was happening to me.

Once it had finished, I was really shaky which I understand was possibly the Lidocaine and the shock of what just happened. The HCA took me next door for sugary tea and a biscuit, and I just sobbed in my husbands arms. He was in shock because he had heard everything that was going on and didn't know what to do. I cried for a while, the HCA comforted me, and eventually I was given a fact sheet of aftercare which was pretty basic, and went home. By then the Lidocaine was numbing the area so it stopped hurting so much.

Now, first time this ever happening to me, I was firstly in shock with the news I had to get this treatment done almost instantly from receiving the news. The nurse also advised me there is no adverse affects to getting this LLETZ but I have since been told I am at higher risk of miscarriage, C/Section, cervical length scans etc when pregnant. I asked these questions at the time and again was dismissed that those things wouldn't occur and I most definitely would have a normal pregnancy when I decide to conceive. Why not be honest?

The massive kick in the teeth was 4 days later when I went to my GP as I was unsure if I had an infection (the nurse didn't tell me I would literally be pouring with fluid for days after) and my GP confirmed I was healing but that my external labia was infact burned! Superficially but information I would have rather heard from the nurse who burned me!

Since this appointment, I could not face sexual intercourse with my husband for 3 months, I know it sound OTT but I literally felt as though I had been violated. I had to go back for a 6 month check (and am due another 6 month check soon), and was so anxious at this appointment for fear of having this nurse touch me again. I have a different nurse now, who is so nice, but I am having flashbacks and am really reluctant to go to my next appointment in a few weeks time. I know I have to but I feel violated and am put off having someone touch me down there. I am also really anxious for when I now decide to have a baby - how will I cope with examinations? I already have flashbacks to this trauma, it's hard enough to enjoy sexual intercourse without thinking about it, and I get pain in my cervix almost daily which is off putting. I am also scared I will need a lot of intervention. I couldn't stand being touched, which was difficult for me and my husband. I am scared to start trying for a baby now.

Overall, I now you can't turn back time and make this experience easier but I would like if you could consider a few things with your staff assisting and conduction these treatments -

1) please fully explain what could happen at colposcopy if it is found LLETZ etc is required, and allow that person to digest that information. It is a scary thing to hear, but to then immediately go into the removal is overwhelming.

2) Listen to your patients. If I'm telling you it hurts, I am not being a child. It hurts! Allow time for the Lidocaine to work.

3) Debrief afterwards, outline aftercare and what to expect, outline risk factors for pregnancy etc or people will just Google information and get worried.

4) If you burn me in a place that is accidental I would be understanding of that but please let me know. It is better for the nurse to have said "I am sorry but when you flinched I burned your labia" I would have accepted that, but to have to hear it 4 days later from my GP. I couldn't look at my vagina, I felt disgusting.

Overall - be kind. It is awful having someone internally touch you. Noone enjoys it. Maybe try to understand this and be gentle? Your HCA was amazing, compassionate, held my hand and very kind. The nurse doing the treatment could have been more understanding and patient.

Thank you.

Do you have a similar story to tell? Tell your story & make a difference ››


Response from Melanie Johnson, Executive Nurse Director, NHS Lothian


Thank you for taking the time to share your experience. I am really sorry this was such a horrible experience for you. Please accept my sincere apologies. It is not the standard of patient experience and care we would wish to provide. I will follow this up with the staff in the department. If you would like a more detailed personal response please contact me at melanie.hornett@nhslothian.scot.nhs.uk

Yours sincerely


  • {{helpful}} {{helpful == 1 ? "person thinks" : "people think"}} this response is helpful