What Is Endoscopy Nursing?

Endoscopy is a set of medical procedures used to assess and diagnose gastroenterological and respiratory disorders through direct visualization within the body. Endoscopy procedures primarily involve the insertion of a fiber optic tube attached to a camera into the bowels to get a view of the lining of the intestines. This procedure allows physicians to visualize the inside structures of the body, enabling them to better and more accurately diagnose and treat diseases and disorders present. Other forms of endoscopy involve inserting the camera into oral and anal cavities and hollow organs like the nose, ear, and respiratory tract.

Endoscopy nurses, also known as gastroenterology nurses, are essential members of the healthcare team that prepare patients and assist during procedures for screening, diagnosis and treatment of gastrointestinal and/or respiratory disorders. Some endoscopy nurses are certified and actually specialize only in the field of endoscopy. An endoscopy nurse is a professional nurse that treats patients who are suffering from any disease, disorder or injury of the upper or lower digestive tract. Some of the diseases that are treated include constipation, reflux, chronic diarrhea, food allergies, and ulcers. Crohn's disease, colon and rectal cancer, GI bleeding, abnormal X-ray findings, biopsy of the digestive tract, strictures, removal of foreign entities, and other similar disease processes or abdominal pain.

Endoscopy nurses also prepare and assist during bronchoscopy, which is a method used to visualize the respiratory organs including the bronchi and lungs. This procedure is common in those with inhalation injuries, Cystic Fibrosis and other long term and chronic lung diseases.

The endoscopy nurse is usually the patient and family's first point of contact so it is imperative that they be able to answer questions and support the patient through the procedure. Prior to meeting with the patient, the endoscopy nurse will be familiar with the patient's chart, medical history, presenting symptoms and general diagnosis. Endoscopy nurses usually prepare the patient for the procedure. They will greet them, explain the procedure, assuage the patient's anxiety as much as possible and then lead them to the procedure room. Prior to the procedure, the endoscopy nurse is responsible for cleaning and managing all equipment and having the procedure room prepared and ready.

Once inside the procedure room, the nurse will assist the patient with any change of clothing needs and then put him or her into correct position depending on the procedure being performed. She will then take vital signs. The endoscopy nurse assists to administer medications during the procedure, and is the essential link between the patient and the physician during the procedure. While the procedure is being performed, the nurse is present with the patient to monitor the patient's condition. At the conclusion, the nurse will handle and label all specimens and assist the patient to recover.

Care instructions for family and patient post-procedure are also the responsibility of the endoscopy nurse. In some instances, long-term care might be necessary as a result of what is found during the scope. In this case, it is necessary to assist patients with the preparation for a long term management with advice and education about topics like proper nutrition, medication management and other life management skills that are associated with their disorder.

The endoscopy nurse is required to have a number of extra qualifications including, but not limited to, a training course with an accredited nursing school specific to gastroenterology. Nurses in the United States are required to be licensed by the state in which they are practicing. The endoscopy nurse can have a wide variety of opportunities for employment and advancement including nursing jobs in many different healthcare settings. Advancement opportunities include supervisory and upper management positions as well as training and research roles.

Endoscopy nurses face several challenges including brief contact with patients as well as difficulty with follow up. They are often required to work in emergency situations, in life threatening patient situations and with very confused and worried family members. An endoscopy nurse must be effective at taking and performing STAT orders, and must be able to effectively communicate with physicians and delegate emergent tasks to other personnel. Other challenges include hazards from working with fluoroscopy, which may be something to consider as you investigate this nursing specialty.

Endoscopy nurses work in a wide variety of settings including hospitals, as well as outpatient settings such as office practices, clinics, and specialized treatment units. Registered nurses in general can expect a continued growth in the healthcare field of 20% by 2022 (BLS, 2016), higher than the average growth in most other professions. Endoscopy nurses can expect to see a growth in this highly specialized field of 26% over this period of time. The average salary for an endoscopy nurse across the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics is $66,300 with pay rates in some areas of the country as high as $90,000 annually.

To be certified as an endoscopy nurse, potential endoscopy nurses must graduate as Registered Nurses with either an associate's degree or a Bachelor of Science degree. Nursing graduates must then pass the national exam for nursing licensure, the NCLEX-RN exam, for initial licensure. There are many states and healthcare facilities that have additional requirements for training and specialization in the field of endoscopy. Some states and medical institutions require only experience to function in the role of an endoscopy nurse, while others may require specialized certification in endoscopic procedures. Voluntary certification as a gastroenterology, or endoscopy, nurse can be achieved through the American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses (ABCGN). This certification is available only after two years of full-time experience or 4,000 hours of part-time experience working in an associated setting.

The field of endoscopy nursing can be both extremely challenging and highly rewarding. Endoscopy nurses are working with patients who are not only experiencing difficult health issues but who are undergoing some of the most difficult and anxiety-producing procedures that are done. A caring and professional demeanor as well as a thorough understanding of the field will help endoscopy nurses to help their patients.