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Gastroenterology Nursing: Education and Career Information

Gastrointestinal and digestive problems can be very serious issues. Nurses who work in this area have specialized education and are trained to help diagnose and treat patients to effectively manage these ailments occurring within the digestive system, including the stomach and bowels. Gastroenterology nursing is a specialty that teaches patients on how to eat and stray away from those foods or activities that will irritate their system.

What does a gastroenterology nurse do?

Gastroenterology nursing requires a specialized nurse that understands what is going on with the digestive system. A gastroenterology nurse is also called an endoscopy nurse, and they are faced with a number of tasks. They are faced with disorders and illnesses such as constipation, diarrhea, reflux, ulcers, food allergies, Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, colon cancer, and rectal cancer, among others. A gastroenterology nurse reviews the patient’s medical history, vital signs and symptoms when initially meeting a patient. They are usually responsible for performing a number of diagnostic procedures and collecting samples, x-rays, ultrasounds and administering barium enemas. They also assist during endoscopy surgery or procedures.

Beyond the clinical portion of this role, the gastroenterology nurse helps to explain the options available to patients, and each benefit or risks the procedure or recommendation may have. They assist patients in providing nutritional information that will make their system operate more effectively. They work with nutritionists and assist home care specialists with patients facing these issues. You will find a gasterology nurse working in hospitals and private specialists’ offices. They also work in clinics and long-term care facilities.

How much does a gastroenterology nurse earn?

Gastroenterology nursing is a highly specialized career. A gastroenterology nurse makes about $87,946 on average per year, but that figure is based on education, experience and location. The starting salary for a nurse in this area is about $71,000, and nurses can make up to $109,000 working in this specialization, according to Payscale.com.

What types of skills are needed to become a gastroenterology nurse?

There are a number of skills needed to be successful as a gastroenterology nurse:

Active listening: Being able to give full attention to what others are saying, and taking the time to fully comprehend points being made. Being able to ask questions to extract the right information.

Social perceptiveness: Being aware of the reaction of others and understanding why the patient is reacting certain ways.

Service orientation: Looking for ways to assist others with a calm and helpful demeanor.

Critical thinking: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Speaking: Speaking clearly and effectively to convey information.

Coordination: Being able to coordinate processes and procedures; adjusting actions in relation to others.

Monitoring: Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.

Judgment and Decision Making: Using judgment to assess resources and patient care, and making informed decisions to help improve quality of life and personal healthcare.

Time Management: Being able to juggle a number of things at one time; coordinating healthcare and keeping patients on a regular schedule.

Writing: Being able to communicate and convey information in written form; keeping the patient chart up-to-date.

Internal Medicine: A gastroenterology nurse must have a firm understanding of internal medicine, and what goes on with the digestive system.

Internship Requirements

Internship requirements vary based on school, state and program. Nursing school has a number of clinical requirements needed to graduate from the program. In order to qualify to take the certification exam, the nurse must complete at least 2,000 hours, in addition to additional experience to become certified as a gastroenterology nurse.

Educational Requirements

Gastroenterology nursing is a specialized field, and the educational requirements are intense. Students must obtain either an associate or bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). The associate’s degree is a two-year program, and the BSN is a four-year commitment. The student will complete coursework in general chemistry, biology, microbiology, human anatomy, physiology, nutrition, statistics, and behavioral science. Although you may obtain an associate’s degree, the industry is shifting toward four-year nursing requirements.

After completing the initial nursing program, the student must sit and pass the NCLEX-RN exam in order to qualify for licensing. While there is no master’s level degree program to become a gastroenterology nurse, there are a number of certifications that will enhance specificity and prove adeptness in the field. These certifications are obtainable after the nurse has worked in the field for a required amount of time. They should choose to work in gastroenterology, but also acquire experience in adult and family care.

Once the nurse has prepared for the Certified Gastroenterology Registered Nurse (CGRN) exam, they have to sit for and pass this exam. It is only offered twice a year, and is a 150-question exam that helps determine proficiency. The nurse must work in gastroenterology for a period of over two years in order to become qualified to take the exam. This exam tests topics such as professional responsibilities and standards, general nursing care, gastroenterological procedures, and patient care interventions. The nurse also needs the endorsement of two gastroenterology practitioners in order to qualify for the exam.

Certification must be renewed every five years, and continuing education courses must be taken throughout. Proof of completion of those hours and education must be presented in order to become re-certified. There are a number of organizations available that support the profession, such as the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates, the American Gastroenterological Association, and the American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses.

Gastroenterology nursing can be a lucrative and exciting field for the right person. The digestive tract and internal medicine can be very challenging, but is also rewarding for those nurses that want to make a difference in the quality of life for others. If this career path seems interesting, pursuing this role may be the right choice.

Nursing Scholarships

American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) American Cancer Society Doctoral Degree Scholarships in Cancer Nursing Gallagher Student Health Careers Scholarship
The Gates Millenium Scholars (GMS) National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)
New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) Nurse Corps Scholarship (NCS) Nurses of Tomorrow
Nursing Economics Foundation Tylenol Future Care Scholarship American Holistic Nurses Association
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