By Suzanne Allert, Certified Nurse Practitioner (CNP)
I work with a lot of women, and I’ve noticed how quickly many of them are to take care of everyone else but not themselves. Does that sound like you?
As a certified nurse practitioner who is also a wife and mom, I am passionate about educating women about their bodies and why it is important to make health a priority. Growing up, I didn't have adequate education about how or why to care for and respect my body. I want the women in my life, or who walk through the door at A Woman’s Place Medical Clinic, to be empowered.
Reprioritize Your Self Care
When you get on an airplane, the flight attendants always remind you of what to do in case of an emergency. It feels so counterintuitive when they say, “First, secure your own oxygen mask, and then help the person sitting next to you.” Why would you do that when your child or someone else you love may need your help?
Because you will be much better equipped to take care of someone else if you make sure you can breathe.
The same principle applies to your health. Your loved ones need you to be in a healthy physical, emotional, and spiritual state. It's a hard thing to make yourself a priority.
This is not exclusively an issue for wives and mothers, either. College students and single women also tend to prioritize other things above their own self care.
It takes an effort to focus on eating healthy foods, exercising, getting adequate sleep, and taking care of yourself. It's a lot easier to make everyone and everything else the priority until you start falling apart or people start making negative remarks about you. That’s when you suddenly realize, “Oh, maybe I need to take care of myself, too!”
First Things First
So, here’s the first thing I want you to know:
YOU ARE WORTH IT.
You're worth the time and investment in self care.
You are worth a man who will cherish you and wait for you.
You are worth being respected.
You are worth making yourself a priority.
And that includes scheduling annual Well Woman Checkups.
The Florida health department recommends scheduling Well Woman Exams starting at the age of 18. At A Woman's Place Medical Clinic, we want to remove as many obstacles as possible so you can make your health a priority. That’s why, if a woman 18 or older does not have insurance and has not had a well woman visit in the last year, we offer the exam at no charge. Simply call the location near you to schedule.
What to Expect: An Overview of Your Visit
A Woman’s Place Clinics are designed to make you feel comfortable and at ease. From the moment you walk through the door, we want you to know you’re a priority to us.
Like with any doctor visit, we’ll work through your health profile--your health history, your family history, any concerns you currently have, and any previous gynecological experiences you’ve had.
After your initial medical intake and your vital signs are taken, you’ll receive a personal interview with me, another nurse practitioner, or doctor. We’ll review your medical profile and any particular concerns you may have. We want to be especially mindful of any changes you may be experiencing and not ignore warning signs.
Once that conversation is complete, we’ll begin your exam, which includes a full physical, breast exam (including education on how to do self-exams at home), a pap test, and STD/STI testing. Depending on your age and risk factors, we may also request you have blood work done.
When I'm doing a physical I try to explain to my clients that we’re looking for any red flags because the earlier we catch something that is abnormal, the better.
You’ll receive all the results from your exam within a week. You’ll speak to someone at our clinic and learn whether your results are normal or abnormal and what to do if you need further testing or consultation. Whatever the results, you’ll feel supported and cared for by our staff.
Education to Take Beyond the Visit
Education is the secret to empowerment, so I want you to leave our clinic with tools to care for yourself at home.
You’ll learn how and when to do breast exams at home. Many of our younger clients don't know how to do a breast exam or what something abnormal feels like. No matter your age, breast self-exams are essential. My mother-in-law found her breast cancer doing a self-exam. Her mammogram did not find it. It’s so important that you know the warning signs and who to contact if you feel a lump or have a concern.
For most women, mammograms are recommended once you reach the age of 40. However, if you have a first-degree relative that was diagnosed with breast cancer before the age of 40, we will recommend doing one sooner. Should you need a mammogram, we do have a program where we refer women to get free mammogram screenings.
You’ll also learn how to take care of your body and make sure you do regular skin checks. It’s important to know your skin and make sure that nothing's changed.
We will talk about concerns you’re having about things like irregular cycles or feminine hygiene. Sexual health means taking appropriate measures to stay healthy and prevent different types of gynecological diseases.
One in four people has human papillomavirus (HPV). That’s why we’ll educate you on the risk factors for cervical cancer and the guidelines for HPV. Many women think that using a condom will protect them against HPV, but the truth is HPV can infect areas not covered by a condom. So, we’ll talk about healthy relationships and the importance of only having sex with someone who is exclusively having sex with you.
Stress is very toxic to the body. It can completely put the body into dysfunction. You’ll receive some important reminders about how to manage your stress level. I always feel like I’m preaching to myself as I talk to women about this topic. It’s hard. I know.
Take the First Step
Schedule your Well Woman Appointment today by calling the clinic nearest you.
Don’t Wait! The sooner you make yourself a priority, the sooner you can take control of your health, wellness, and happiness.
I care so much about your health and wellness because you have so much value and I want you to know that you are worth it. If you stop in for your appointment, and I’m not your nurse practitioner, please ask to say hello to Suzanne. I’d love to meet you!
Suzanne Allert is a certified nurse practitioner provider who performs Well Woman Exams at A Woman’s Place Medical Clinic. She is a Coast Guard wife and mom of three children.
Her career has focused primarily on women’s care and education, with previous experience in long term care, family practice, and gastroenterology. She is a valuable part of our team.
How to do a breast-self-exam: https://www.nationalbreastcancer.org/breast-self-exam
American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) cervical cancer screening info and guidelines
Cancer.org cervical cancer statistics
CDC HPV facts