What Does a Gastroenterology Nurse Do?

Knowing exactly what a gastroenterology (GI) nurse does is important to determine whether this RN specialty is right for you. Also called endoscopy nurses, gastroenterology nurses are licensed healthcare providers who primarily treat patients with stomach and bowel problems. It’s their duty to help patients maximize their digestive health so that their bodies effectively absorb nutrients. Gastroenterology nurses attend to patients suffering with disorders like chronic constipation, acid reflux, ulcers, Crohn’s disease, and colon cancer. America’s aging baby boomer population is creating a growing demand for the endoscopy and colonoscopy screenings that gastroenterology nurses provide. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts the overall employment of RNs to spike by 16 percent through 2024. The following is a brief job profile to determine if gastroenterology is the ideal fit for your nursing career.

Job Responsibilities

Gastroenterology nurses work with licensed GI physicians to assist in diagnosing and treating diverse medical conditions impacting the digestive tract. For each patient, gastroenterology nurses will review their medical history, inquire about their symptoms, check their vital signs, and collect blood or fecal samples. Many are involved in conducting ultrasounds, enemas, endoscopies, and colonoscopies to screen the abdomen. Some may help gastroenterologists perform surgeries that remove ulcers, tumors, or foreign bodies from the stomach. Education is a big part of the gastroenterology nurse’s job. GI nurses must teach patients how to manage symptoms, take medications, and improve nutrition. Gastroenterology nurses may work with nutritionists to customize patients’ diet plans.

Typical Work Settings

Gastroenterology nurses can find employment in the various healthcare settings where digestive care is provided. The highest percentage of gastroenterology RNs work in state, local, and private hospitals in acute care departments. Another sizeable group works in medical group practices and physician offices operated by gastroenterologists. It’s also possible for endoscopy nurses to find jobs in outpatient surgery centers, clinics, long-term care facilities, nursing homes, and home health services. Most gastroenterology nurses are employed full-time, but in 24/7 practices their hours may vary with irregular night and weekend hours. Gastroenterology nurses spend considerable time standing, walking, and bending to operate the equipment that screens patients’ GI tracts.

Steps to Become a Gastroenterology Nurse

Successfully specializing in gastroenterology nursing will require becoming a registered nurse (RN) with valid state licensing. Most states allow RNs to obtain a two-year associate degree in nursing (ADN) from an accredited community college. The American Association of Critical-Care Nurses recommends forging ahead to the university level for a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) though (please see: Cheapest Accredited Online RN to BSN Programs to Most Expensive). Electives and clinical practicum should be focused in gastroenterology. New nurses must pass the National Council Licensure Exam (NCLEX-RN) after graduation. Then, at least two years of RN experience, or 4,000 clock hours, for certification is necessary. Passing a test from the American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses (ABCGN) is also required.

Overall, gastroenterology nurses are specialized RNs who provide direct bedside care for patients enduring digestive disorders from the esophagus to the rectum. They play a pivotal role in helping gastroenterologists deliver high-quality, custom treatments that enhance GI health. Gastroenterology nurses are rewarded with an average yearly salary of $67,000 . Those who advance as gastroenterology nurse practitioners (NPs) can expect higher salaries. Now that you know what a gastroenterology nurse does, you can choose whether it’s the right career match for you.