Smear Takers

Cervical Sample Taker

A cervical sample taker is a registered health practitioner and the professional group to which they belong has a scope of practice that includes cervical screening.

They hold a current practising certificate and have completed appropriate cervical screening training.

Cervical sample takers are required to complete cervical screening training either through:

  • training as part of a medical degree or midwifery training programme; or
  • a New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) accredited course for cervical sample takers.

Responsibilities of cervical sample takers

Cervical sample takers and providers of cervical screening services play a key role in the NCSP and are responsible for:

  • identifying and inviting eligible women to have a cervical screening test
  • providing information to women on the NCSP and cervical screening and what to expect when having a sample taken
  • providing a culturally-safe environment for sample taking and ensuring services are sensitive to each woman’s needs
  • taking an optimal sample
  • explaining to women that, regardless of a normal test result, any abnormal signs or symptoms need to be reported to their general practitioner (GP) as soon as possible
  • taking into account the clinical signs and symptoms presented (irrespective of the laboratory result and recommendations made) in order to inform a decision on recall or referral for gynaecological assessment
  • ensuring that the sample is sent to the laboratory with the appropriate details recorded
  • ensuring women are appropriately informed of the result of their test and a system is in place to provide appropriate invitation and recall
  • ensuring women are referred for specialist assessment and investigation when required and coordinating their ongoing care following discharge.

NCSP standards for cervical sample takers

Cervical sample takers have responsibilities through Section 3 of the NCSP Policies and Standards. 

This section contains information, policies, and standards of practice for cervical sample takers and providers of cervical screening services, and applies to both primary and secondary health care services.  It includes information in the following areas:

  • Training, performance review and professional development
  • Supportive service delivery
  • Invitation and recall
  • Informed consent and communication
  • Cervical screening and follow-up responsibilities
  • Safety and quality

Informed consent

Sample takers have a key role in ensuring that each woman understands cervical screening and the procedures involved, and in communicating information about the NCSP Register, and their results. 

Further information is provided in Chapter 4 of Section 3 of the National Policies and Standards (Informed Consent and Communication).

Professional development

Sample takers must maintain competency in cervical screening through regular cervical screening and ongoing professional development activities.

Sample takers are expected to maintain their competence by:

  • taking cervical samples on a regular basis (at least 30 per year)
  • monitoring their adequacy rate via the Quality of Smear report
  • reading current information from the NCSP and relevant journal articles
  • attending a cervical screening update session no less than once every three years.

Sample takers who persistently have high rates of unsatisfactory samples should seek further training in cervical screening.

Further information is provided in Chapter 1 of Section 3 of the National Policies and Standards (Training, performance review and professional development).

Guidance for sample takers: The adequacy of cervical cytology samples

Chapter 5 of Section 3 of the National Policies and Standards provides guidance to sample takers on how to obtain an optimal sample.

Laboratory Request Form

The laboratory form for cervical screening and HPV test requests was updated July 2012 and is available for download if required. This form is no longer provided in hardcopy by the NCSP. View the Laboratory request form.

All sample takers should ensure that the appropriate fields for requesting cervical samples and HPV tests are loaded into their own patient management system. Information on the requirements is found in Chapter 5 of Section 3 of the National Policies and Standards (Information required by the laboratory).

NCSP competencies for cervical screening education and training

The NCSP Competencies for cervical screening education and training (PDF, 519 KB) replaces the NCSP Competencies for Smear Taker Training, 2009.

This document provides detail on the skills, knowledge and attributes expected of a cervical sample taker, as well as the requirements for training entry, assessment and maintaining competence.

It has been developed by the NCSP in consultation with stakeholders to ensure nationally consistent teaching and assessment standards.

Providers of cervical screening training programmes are required to be registered and accredited by NZQA to deliver Unit Standard 29556: Conduct cervical screening.

Smear taker training grants

The Smear taker training grant - Information and application form (docx, 169 KB) must be completed when applying for a training grant.

The Training Grant is a reimbursement of course fees that is paid on successful completion of a recognised cervical screening course. The Ministry approves the grant prior to attending the course, so that sample takers know that they will receive the funding on successful completion of the course and its practical components.

To be eligible to apply for a training grant you must:

meet the criteria for entry to cervical screening training as outlined in the NCSP Competencies for Cervical Screening Education and Training
be in a position to begin or continue to take cervical samples as a part of your employment; and
provide the required documentation including evidence of employer endorsement and a copy of an NZQA Record of Achievement showing completion of Unit Standard 29556 (Conduct Cervical Screening).

HPV testing

HPV testing as per the Guidelines for Cervical Screening officially commenced on 1 October 2009. The HPV testing - smear taker's responsibilities (pdf, 34.2 KB) fact sheet explains and clarifies changes to smear takers’ responsibilities with the introduction of HPV testing.

The HPV and HPV testing (pdf, 41.39 KB) fact sheet for women will also be a useful guide for sample takers advising women about HPV testing.

An online training module has been developed to assist with supporting your knowledge of HPV and the HPV vaccine. It will assist you with knowing when to order an HPV test as part of regular cervical screening, and discussing the results of those tests with women. The HPV module is available on the LearnOnline website.

Page last updated: 02 May 2017