A Day in the Life: Gastroenterology Nurse

A Day in the Life: Gastroenterology Nurse

Do you have the guts to be a gastroenterology nurse?

All joking aside, this facet of the field is often overlooked because it may not be as exciting as, for example, working in an ED. But it truly helps to save lives.

Daily Nurse interviewed Alicia Carter, RN, BSN, BS, MHA, an endoscopy nurse at the University of Maryland Capital Region Health, about what it’s like to work as a gastroenterology nurse. What follows is our interview, edited for length and clarity.

How did you get interested in being a gastroenterology nurse? What drew you to it? How long have you been doing it?

I have always been interested in becoming a circulating nurse, and when I moved from out of state and began a job search in the area, I came upon the posting for my current position. After much research, I applied and waited impatiently to hear back. I was excited to train and learn as much as possible when I was hired.

Since it is not a “popular” sector of nursing, like ICU, ED, or OR, I was drawn in by knowing that I was entering into a specialty with more specific missions in each procedure than I had previously known.

I have been a gastroenterology nurse for two years.

Did you need to get additional education for this position? 

Outside of nursing school, I did not get additional education for this position; however, it may not be best suited for a new grad nurse.

What do you like most about working as a gastroenterology nurse? 

What I like the most about working as a gastroenterology nurse is that it’s fast-paced, for the most part. I like being on the move; working in Endoscopy gives me exactly that.

We get patients who are just coming in for a routine screening colonoscopy, and we get patients who are getting scoped because we are trying to find out if their cancer has spread, so we are getting the full spectrum of acuity in our patients.

Our advanced cases are much slower than EGDs or Colonoscopies, but as a whole, the day moves steadily when our schedule is full.

What are your biggest challenges as a gastroenterology nurse? 

The biggest challenge that I have found as a gastroenterology nurse is trying to please everyone all at once—including the patient, the proceduralist, the anesthesia, your manager, and your techs.

Because many wheels are turning simultaneously, you can do your best to try to make sure that they all stop and arrive at the same point at the same time, but that doesn’t always happen, no matter how hard you try.

What are your greatest rewards as one? 

My greatest reward as a gastroenterology nurse is that you are an integral part of someone’s journey to either fixing a problem or diagnosing a problem.

In addition to your position requirements, you are there to hold hands with a patient before they go in the room, you are there to give them comfort before them being sedated, and you are there as one of the first faces they see after they wake up.

Knowing that I am the person that the patient looks for to make sure that everything goes smoothly with their procedure and care is heartwarming, and when the patient wakes up and thanks me for being there for them, it makes my day.

Is there anything else that is important for our readers to know? 

It is important to note that no one size fits all for GI nurses. Depending on your facility, there will be different responsibilities for a GI nurse—whether it is an outpatient or inpatient facility. Either way, the work can be very rewarding, and even though it is not a specialty that many know a lot about, it is worth checking out for yourself to see if it fits.