Gastroenterology nurses specialize in providing care for patients with gastrointestinal disorders. This can include chronic illness or injury of the intestinal or digestive systems. Illnesses they treat could be cancer, irritable bowel syndrome, ulcers, abdominal bleeding, or acid reflux, to name a few examples. Gastroenterology nurses can work in inpatient or outpatient departments in hospitals, in ambulatory endoscopy centers, or in private practices.
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Gasteroenterology nurse duties vary based on their training and the extent of their nursing education, but can include cleaning equipment, performing screenings, taking medical histories, checking vital signs, aiding the physician in making diagnoses and treating, or preparing a patient for surgery or procedures. Some nurses assist in endoscopies, which is a procedure that enables the health care provider to look inside the gastrointestinal tract by using a tube equipped with a tiny camera that takes pictures. Some gastroenterology nurses might also work on case management for these patients. Educating patients about their illness and how they can manage it at home is another important part of the gastroenterology nurse job.
If you are interested in entering this specialty, the first step is to become a licensed, registered nurse. If you have not already, you can become a registered nurse by completing a two-year associate degree in nursing (ASN/ADN) from a community or vocational college. Ideally, you should earn a four-year degree from a college or university, earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) as professional nursing organizations have posted recommendations stating that the BSN should be the minimum educational level for professional nursing. Once you have completed your education, you will need to become licensed. Each state has its own board of nursing which offers the NCLEX (National Council Licensure Examination). Passing this will make you a licensed, registered nurse.
Becoming certified is also an important step, earning you the credential of Certified Gastroenterology Registered Nurse (CGRN). Becoming a Certified Gastroenterology Registered Nurse is not legally required the way earning your nursing license is. However, in today’s modern world of constant research and advancement, you need to keep up with the changes in the field in order to be competitive and prove your nursing skills to your employer and future patients. Earning your certification as a Gastroenterology nurse will pay off in higher pay, career advancement, and of course also in greater knowledge and skills. The exam is offered by the American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses, and will require study and preparation in order to be able to pass it successfully. It is offered twice a year in computer format, and needs to be retaken every five years to ensure that you are keeping up with the profession’s developments
Nursing as a profession promises fantastic growth as the healthcare sector strives to meet the needs of the expanding aging population and as more and more nurses move toward retirement age. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects nursing to be one of the fastest growing professions, a trend that will continue at least through the year 2016. Specialized nursing positions like this one will be even more in demand, due to the required additional training and education. A gastroenterology nurse practitioner with a master’s degree can make $71,849-$97,423, according to payscale.com. The average salary of a gastroenterology nurse with a bachelor’s degree is $49,000. Salary can of course vary greatly based on employer, experience, geographic location, and degree. If you are interested in pursuing a specialized nursing field, gastroenterology nursing holds promise in growth, salary, and personal reward.
(Sources: Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates, American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses, Cleveland Clinic, Bureau of Labor Statistics)