As you look ahead to your nursing career and the various specialities within it that you can pursue, you may be wondering how to become a gastroenterology nurse. Gastroenterology is one of a number of nursing specialties in which an RN can become certified, providing them the opportunity to work with a specific population. In this case, the population would be patients who suffer from illnesses and disorders that affect the digestive system. Gastroenterology nurses work in hospitals, clinics and private medical practices to treat patients who have problems with their bowels or stomach.
In order to become a gastroenterology nurse, you will first need to become a registered nurse (RN). To do that, you will need to earn an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN) or a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) degree and the you must take and pass the national exam (NCLEX) required to become a licensed RN (please see: 30 Best Affordable RN-BSN Degree Programs). Once you are an RN, you can begin to work as a nurse and pursue your interest in a certain specialty area. If you want to work in gastroenterology, you will want to find opportunities to work with patients who suffer from ailments of the digestive tract. These can be ailments as mild as problems caused by some food allergies and as critical as illnesses such as colon cancer.
As a gastroenterology nurse, you will likely learn how to collect samples and run various kinds of diagnostic tests that can help in the diagnosis of digestive illnesses. Some of the tests might include barium enemas or x-rays. Some nurses also specialize in endoscopy procedures. In addition to being part of a diagnostic team, you will also learn how to counsel patients regarding pertinent medication and nutrition issues. Some gastroenterology nurses also help during surgeries.
Although certification for gastroenterology nurses is optional, many nurses pursue it because it helps them to stay up to date on current practices and techniques and because it shows their commitment to their profession and especially to their specialty area. The certification process for gastroenterology nurses is done through the American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses (ABCGN). This board sets the criteria of eligibility for the certification and also for the exam that you will need to take and pass in order to achieve the certification. In order to sit for the test, you will need to have completed a minimum of two years of full-time relevant practice in gastroenterology or a part-time equivalency of 4,000 hours. You will be asked to submit verification from the doctors you’ve worked for, or your hospital’s HR department, in order for the board to let you sit for the exam.
Although being a nursing generalist is rewarding, finding a certain niche in nursing and pursuing it can be an especially good way to hone your skills. Having these skills and a certification at the RN level may help you if, in the future, you decide to become an advanced practice nurse (APRN). If you decide to become a gastroenterology nurse, you may later decide you want to pursue the same specialty at the graduate level and become a nurse practitioner.