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Endoscopy nurses provide care to patients with actual or potential problems involving the gastrointestinal (GI) tract during specialized procedures performed with lighted, flexible instruments known as endoscopes. The endoscope is introduced into the GI tract through the mouth or anus to provide the physician with an inside look at the lining of the esophagus, stomach and intestines. During endoscopy procedures, the doctor can obtain samples of the content of those organs and treat minor problems.
An endoscopy nurse may care for newborns, children, adolescents, and/or adults, depending upon his work setting. Some of those patients will be relatively healthy, others will have any number of chronic diseases and co-morbidities and still others may be critically-ill. According to the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA), many endoscopy nurses begin their practice in a hospital setting, caring for a defined patient population on a medical-surgical, pediatric, or critical care unit. This experience provides a sound knowledge base, plenty of practice in technical skills, and an opportunity to develop critical thinking and time management skills.
Registered nurses in the United States begin their education by earning either an associate degree in nursing (ADN) or a baccalaureate degree in nursing (BSN). The nurse is then eligible to take a national examination known as the NCLEX to earn state-specific licensure as an RN. While ADN and BSN programs offer basic information about caring for patients undergoing endoscopy, there’s still a lot more to learn.
SGNA’s comprehensive core curriculum for gastroenterology nurses, which includes sections on endoscopy nursing, offers a good starting point for nurses interested in the subspecialty. SGNA also offers self-study options that include a DVD library for GI procedures, a learner-directed module on cleaning and disinfection of endoscopic equipment and some fun crossword puzzles. SGNA is also accredited as an approver and provider of continuing education for nurses through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, which means the organization provides and/or endorses courses for RNs wanting to learn more about endoscopy nursing.
Endoscopy nurses typically receive extensive on-the-job training and education from a seasoned nurse known as a preceptor. This supervised practice allows her to master the technical skills required during endoscopic procedures, learn to anticipate and manage complications, and care for the delicate instruments used in the endoscopy suite. (See Reference 2)
The American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses (ABCGN) is the certification body for gastroenterology nursing, including those clinicians who specialize in endoscopy nursing. Although certification is typically not a job requirement for endoscopy nursing jobs, certification demonstrates competency in the field. According to ABCGN, certified nurses earn about $9,200 a year more than their noncertified colleagues.
Sandy Keefe, M.S.N., R.N., has been a freelance writer for over five years. Her articles have appeared in numerous health-related magazines, including "Advance for Nurses" and "Advance for Long-Term Care Management." She has written short stories in anthologies such as "A Cup of Comfort for Parents of Children with Special Needs."