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Nursing Roles for a Colonoscopy

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According to the Mayo Clinic, a colonoscopy is a medical procedure used to detect abnormalities in the large intestine, or colon, and rectum. A physician inserts a colonoscope with a small camera attached into the rectum in order to view the inside of the colon. Colonoscopies are performed to screen individuals for colon cancer or to determine the possible causes of gastrointestinal problems. These procedures are assisted by registered nurses known as endoscopy nurses, who perform several duties during the procedure.

Colonoscope Reprocessing

Nurses assisting with colonscopies are often responsible for reprocessing the colonoscope used during the procedure. Reprocessing is an involved process. Great care must be taken to avoid spreading infection or disease from patient to patient. Proper reprocessing involves wiping the scope, placing it in detergent and suctioning liquid through it in the examination room before taking it to a sterile reprocessing room for thorough cleaning, leak testing and sterilizing.

Patient Assessment

Before a colonoscopy begins, a nurse performs an assessment of the patient. The nurse takes vital signs and records important information including the patient's current medications, prior procedures, allergies, medical history and drug history. Additionally, the nurse documents the patient's skin color, pain tolerance levels, airway assessment, concerns, admitting time and identification information.

Monitor and Document

According to the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates, every patient undergoing a diagnostic, therapeutic or invasive procedure requires a professional to monitor, assist with and document the procedure. During a colonoscopy, a nurse is expected to record a patient's vital signs, record analgesia information, monitor the patient's level of consciousness, record the patient's skin color, document fluids administered and procedures performed and record equipment used. Registered nurses may also assist physicians in the procedures, providing them with necessary equipment and supplies.

After Care

Once a colonoscopy is performed, the endoscopy nurse performs an after care routine. At this time, the nurse will assess and record a patient's vital signs, perform a pain assessment, record unusual events or outcomes, record the patient's disposition and explain discharge instructions to the patient or designated caregiver,


Kendall Olsen has been writing for more than 20 years She is a University of Missouri-St. Louis Gateway Writing Project Fellow and has published instructional materials with the McDonald Publishing Company. Olsen holds an Ed.S. in educational technology, an M.Ed. in secondary English curriculum and instruction, a B.S. in elementary education and a B.A. in art history.

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