Endoscopy nurses play an essential role in helping assess and diagnose gastroenterological and respiratory disorders. These disorders can result in patients experiencing difficulties with breathing and sleeping, nutritional deficiencies, and an increased risk of infections.
If you’re considering pursuing a career as an endoscopy nurse, this blog post will brief you on what that means in medical terms, what you can expect to do daily in this role, and the pros and cons of various aspects of this role based on real experiences of endoscopy nurses. Keep reading to learn more, and as always, refer to Nursa’s complete nursing guides, including this guide on endoscopy nursing, to learn more about this nursing specialty.
What Does Endoscopy Mean in Medical Terms?
Endoscopy involves minimally invasive surgical or medical procedures used to assess and diagnose gastroenterological and respiratory disorders. These procedures involve an instrument called an endoscope, which gives direct visualization of the body from within. This procedure involves the insertion of a fiber optic tube which is attached to a camera, giving a view of the lining of the intestines or other parts of the body. This view gives physicians the information they need to diagnose and treat disorders or diseases.
Daily Responsibilities of an Endoscopy Nurse
Endoscopy nurses can work in hospitals, gastroenterological specialty clinics, and endoscopy laboratories. Registered nurses (RNs) who work in endoscopy must know about gastrointestinal and respiratory diseases, in addition to having the skills to use and maintain endoscopic equipment and manage emergencies and complications.
An endoscopy nurse is tasked with assisting the gastroenterologist during endoscopic procedures, educating patients about treatment, and providing specialized patient care before, during, and after the procedure. More specifically, endoscopy nurses carry out the following responsibilities:
Before the procedure:
- Patient assessment and preparation: Checking and monitoring vitals, reviewing medical history, answering questions and addressing patient concerns, explaining what to expect from the procedure
- IV placement and assisting with the provision of anesthesia
- Verifying patient consent and potentially signing as a witness
- Preparing the endoscopy room: Cleaning and sterilizing necessary instruments, equipment, and supplies for the procedure
During the procedure:
- Assisting the endoscopist and anesthetist as necessary during the procedure
- Monitoring patient vital signs throughout the procedure
- Advocating for patient safety and comfort during the procedure for quality assurance and infection prevention
After the procedure:
- Monitoring the patient and providing recovery support, such as talking them through their status as the sedation wears off and ensuring their general wellbeing
- Administering necessary medications
- Completing all necessary documentation, including patient notes and discharge documents
Pros and Cons of Endoscopy Nursing
As with all nursing specialties, endoscopy nursing has its advantages and disadvantages. If you’re determining if endoscopy nursing is right for you, it’s key to weigh the pros and cons against what really matters to you as you seek the right nursing position.
Pros of Endoscopy Nursing
Endoscopy nursing involves working on a team with physicians, technicians, and other healthcare providers, which can be rewarding if you enjoy working with others and are in a supportive, healthy work environment.
Although endoscopy nursing is more niche than other specialties such as emergency room (ER) nursing, there is still variety involved in the role. Tom Johnson, who has been an endoscopy nurse for one year, says the main advantage of this role is “the variety of tasks you can do. One day you can be in the cleaning galley, you could be assisting the gastroenterologist the next...You’ll never get bored.”
In addition, Tom says that endoscopy nursing involves learning transferable skills, which can be applied to other procedural areas, such as medical imaging, working in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), and scrubbing.
“All I can say to other nurses/nursing students is come and join [endoscopy nursing]. You’ll never want to go back to the wards,” he says.
Cons of Endoscopy Nursing
While the pros of endoscopy nursing are many, there are several cons to be aware of as well.
First and foremost, being an endoscopy nurse means you may have exposure to pathogens, radiation, and fluoroscopy. Some pathogens you may be exposed to include E Coli or Giardia lamblia, which can infect you or those you’re in close contact with. While your exposure to radiation, which is used extensively in endoscopy, will be limited (you will typically walk in and out of the room during this process), consistent exposure to radiation can damage your cells. It’s crucial to understand the effects of radiation and ask critical questions about what exposure you can expect on the job.
As an endoscopy nurse, you’ll have brief contact with patients, so if your interactions with patients are a highlight for you as a nurse, you may want to consider a specialty that gives you more face-time with patients.
In addition, endoscopy nurses can work in stressful environments, as they may be supporting in an emergency, or life-threatening situation, dealing with the anxiety of performing their role, worrying about the outcome for a patient, and reassuring their concerned family members.