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Gastroenterology nurses use their skills and experience specifically in the areas related to gastrointestinal issues. They address the care for any illness, condition, or dysfunction occurring anywhere in the digestive tract; the body’s system which takes in, processes for absorption, and eliminates the food we consume for the nutrition of our bodies. But they also do so much more on a daily basis so make sure you are prepared if you’re considering transitioning into this specialty. 

Preparing You for Testing

One of their most commonly known responsibilities is preparing patients for endoscopies—diagnostic procedures for detecting illnesses within the upper and lower digestive tracts—and caring for patients as they recover. They educate patients about the procedure, any preparation required, and what to expect afterward. But they also care for their patients through whatever condition may be diagnosed as a result of those endoscopies.

They also assist with more specialized procedures, such as those that measure things like transit time (the time it takes the food we eat to make the trip through the digestive system), pH levels in the digestive tract to evaluate for reflux, or esophageal motility studies to evaluate the function of the esophageal sphincter (the dysfunction of which also contributes to reflux).

Knowledge Is Power

Often, patients are struggling with a diagnosis that has altered the way they’re able to live their lives. Gastroenterology specialty nurses help to educate them about how to manage their condition, prevent symptom flare-ups, and provide alternative solutions while managing their condition. These nurses educate patients about specific diets that may alleviate symptoms and prevent further complications.

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Gastrointestinal nurses also work with patients who have ostomies. They educate patients regarding their necessity and how to manage and care for them; and when appropriate, prepare and educate them regarding the reversal of the ostomy.

Setting Expectations

One of the most important roles a nurse plays in gastroenterology nursing—and all nursing—is assisting patients in setting and managing expectations for their care. This is a critical task whether the nurse is working with a healthy individual or one who has received chronic or even catastrophic diagnoses. An experienced, skillful nurse is able to help their patients maintain realistic expectations while working toward optimum health.

Be sure to check out more information here if you’re curious about gastroenterology nursing.

Elizabeth Binsfield, BA, RN
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