The COVID-19 pandemic has had a direct impact on GI nursing and SGNA has resources to help nurses. While many initially thought COVID-19 was an acute respiratory virus, the year has revealed many patients presenting with severe gastrointestinal symptoms, some of which persist long after the initial recovery. GI nurses are also managing the safety concerns for themselves and their patients. And many GI procedures were delayed due to the pandemic’s impact.
Within this nursing specialty, gastrointestinal nurses can find many subsets of the field that interest them. There are opportunities for nurses to work with pediatric patients and the elderly. They can focus on cancer treatment and care or on endoscopy and surgical practices and procedures. And they are able to work with patients in inpatient and outpatient settings for conditions including Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis or GERD and other digestive disorders.
As a GI nurse, you may even opt to pursue an academic or research role to help find new treatments and discoveries to help GI patients. These options allow nurses to work in an area that really interests them and where they feel they can make a significant impact on a patient’s quality of life.
This week occurs during a month devoted to Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, a disease that directly impacts the work GI nurses do. As colorectal cancer cases in young adults increase, GI nurses are excellent advocates for their patients to learn how to manage the diagnosis and treatment while living with the emotional and physical impacts of this disease.
Gastroenterology nurses can use many available resources during Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month to begin conversations with their patients. They can talk about warning signs and symptoms, family history and other risk factors, the critical timing of screening, and the importance of a healthy lifestyle for everyone, but particularly those at a higher risk for colon cancer.
You’ll be an essential member of many teams that will depend on your clinical expertise in gastroenterology and your knowledge of the patient. As with any nursing specialty, gaining certification in your area of specialty will allow you to increase your knowledge and then put that into practice to offer the best patient care.
As a certified GI nurse, your leadership will be an asset to your organization as well and may inspire other nurses to follow the same path. Your certification brings you expertise that will help you work for policy change that can make life easier for GI patients, help bring improved safety for GI nurses, or raise awareness of GI disorders.
GI nurses also hold a special empathy for those in their care as they hear stories of pain and discomfort and the indignities GI patients sometimes deal with. As a caring provider, you know your nursing practice will help you develop close bonds with your GI patients. Those bonds provide the kind of meaningful connections that give GI nurses a great deal of job satisfaction.
National GI Nurses & Associates Week takes place this year (March 22-28) in the middle of a world in upheaval. The COVID-19 pandemic that has taken hold around the world has a direct and significant impact on healthcare workers around the globe.
While the industry continues to grapple with the demands placed on its workers, GI nurses continue to do their work to help those with disorders involving the entire gastrointestinal tract.
Sponsored by the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses & Associates, this week focuses on the nursing practice of gastroenterology and endoscopy and the conditions of the GI tract. Nurses in this specialty are involved in all aspects of care of GI patients. They will treat patients who have various conditions including reflux, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or cancer. Because of the broad range of conditions, GI nurses are specialists in body systems that are also related to the GI tract and how each impacts the other.
Gastroenterology nurses will meet with patients, will assist with procedures and follow up care, and offer ongoing patient support. Nurses in this role are also a primary source of education about these conditions and how they impact overall health.
Because GI conditions have significant impact on other areas of health, GI nurses work as part of a team that helps patients with life-changing adjustments. They might work with nutritionists to help patients with celiac disease learn how to adapt to the often overwhelming challenge of eliminating any wheat ingredients from their diets and other nutrition education. GI nurses will also work to help control any chronic pain that presents with gastrointestinal disorders or diseases. Patients also frequently turn to their GI nurses to help them navigate the social aspects of having a condition that can be highly disruptive to daily life, so nurses will bring in other team members while they also use their own vast knowledge of coping skills.
Nurses in the gastroenterology field frequently assist with procedures that include endoscopy to determine allergy, irritation, or disease or colonoscopies to diagnose disease or as a screening tool for colon cancer. They will be with patients through these procedures and will educate them on what to expect and normal recovery. Because GI nurses work with patients who are of all ages and also with patients who may have other complex conditions, they have to remain alert for any unexpected complications.
GI nurses rely on their critical thinking skills as well as a deep sense of empathy for their patients. GI conditions involve symptoms that sometimes bring embarrassment for patients, and GI nurses are excellent at normalizing what the body is doing.
If this career path interests you, experience in a broad specialty like med/surge nursing will be an asset for moving forward. You’ll want to gain experience with GI patients, so that is the next step. To advance your career and to ensure you are providing your patients with the best possible care, becoming certified is next. Taking the GI certification exam shows you set high standards for yourself and are willing to take on the extra work to become the best nurse you can. The additional knowledge gained with the certification process will boost your skills.
Celebrate GI nurses this week, and stay safe out there on the front lines.
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