What is the role of a Gastroenterology Nurse?

An estimated sixty to seventy million Americans experience digestive disorders, leading to nearly 250,000 deaths yearly, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Their diagnosis and treatment are in the hands of medical professional teams, which include gastroenterology nurses. 

In this blog post, we’ll cover the role of a gastroenterology nurse—or endoscopy nurse—during endoscopic procedures, including their day-to-day responsibilities, the pros and cons of the job, and how to become a gastroenterology nurse. 

What Is a Gastroenterology Nurse?

A gastroenterology nurse is a nursing professional who typically works under a gastroenterologist, assisting in diagnosing and treating diseases, disorders, and injuries in patients’ gastrointestinal systems or digestive tracts. Typical issues that gastroenterology nurses support in diagnosing and treating include constipation, diarrhea, reflux, ulcers, food allergies, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, colon cancer, and rectal cancer. 

Gastroenterology nurses work in various settings, including hospitals, private specialists’ offices, clinics, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and home health services.

What Is the Role of a Gastroenterology Nurse?

On a daily basis, gastroenterology nurses are typically engaged in the following tasks: 

  • Recording and reviewing patients’ medical history, symptoms, and vital signs
  • Educating patients about their conditions and explaining different treatment plans, options, risks, and benefits
  • Preparing patients for diagnosis or treatment, which includes collecting samples from diagnostic procedures such as x-rays, ultrasounds, and barium enemas
  • Providing nutrition advice, particularly for long-term care gastroenterology issues
  • Administering medications, including preoperative medications, through injections or IVs and assisting physicians with the administration of anesthesia
  • Providing postoperative care, which includes monitoring patients for post-operative complications 

Pros of Being a Gastroenterology Nurse

Here are some of the advantages of being a gastroenterology nurse:

  • Working on a variety of tasks
  • “I was drawn to GI by the variety of experiences you can have on a daily basis. I get to work with inpatients, outpatients, ICU cases, OR cases, and ER cases. I still get to use my critical care skills every day.” -Barbara Vodopest, RN
  • “We are placing stents, we are draining cysts, we are helping prevent patients from going to the operating room, we are removing cancer through an endoscope, and so much more. We do something new here every day.” -Gina Costanzo, BSN, RN
  • Playing a pivotal role in patients’ lives, especially as gastroenterology issues impact how people live. Gastroenterology nurses help patients manage their conditions, and this can be life-altering for those who successfully prevent symptom flare-ups and have effective solutions to manage their conditions, so this field can be rewarding for those who want to feel the impact of their work. 

Cons of Being a Gastroenterology Nurse

Here are some of the disadvantages of being a gastroenterology nurse:

  • Providing emotional comfort, which can deplete you of energy
  • “One of the biggest challenges is providing comfort to family members during a time that may be difficult. It’s an important part of our job, but it can be emotionally draining.”  -Barbara Vodopest, RN
  • “Because of the nature of the specialty, at times it can be really quite tough... The patients are acutely unwell…” -Nurse Michelle Matron
  • The repetitive nature of some tasks  One Reddit user and nurse says this specialty can be a good fit “if you enjoy talking about poop chutes all day, start two IVs per person, and saying the same lines ten or more times a day.”

How to Become a Gastroenterology Nurse

To become a gastroenterology nurse, you’ll first need to get an Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN), which can take you as little as two years, or a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), which will take four years to complete. Once you’ve completed the program and you pass the NCLEX-RN, you’ll need to work as a registered nurse in gastroenterology for an additional two years. Finally, you may complete an optional Certified Gastroenterology Specialty Nurse exam offered through the American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses. Those who receive the certification can use the designation “CGRN” after their names and must maintain it by re-certifying every five years. 

Final Thoughts on the Role of a Gastroenterology Nurse

If you’re interested in learning more about gastroenterology nursing, read Nursa’s ultimate guide on endoscopy nursing. The guide contains relevant information on education requirements, average salaries, and more. It is part of Nursa’s complete guides to nursing specialties, which provide you with everything you need to know about a range of nursing specialties, so you can choose a nursing specialty you love.

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