When TV personality Katie Couric showed viewers what happens when a woman has a colonoscopy, she also gave them a peek at an important player in the endoscopy suite – the endoscopy nurse. An endoscopy can include a look at your colon, your stomach or your gallbladder. Endoscopy nurses specialize in helping the doctors who examine your various nooks and crannies with high-tech equipment. Endoscopy nurses are experts who assist the surgeon, support patients and help to keep them safe.
The endoscopy nurse is often the first person you see, because one of her duties is patient assessment. She will check your blood pressure and pulse, ask you all those questions about your symptoms and health habits and will find out if you have any allergies. That checklist she completes as she goes through this routine becomes the reference tool for the other professionals in the endoscopy suite. The nurse will make sure you’re who you say you are, put on your colorful ID band with allergies noted in big, bold letters.
“Safety first” is the motto of the endoscopy nurse. The risks of an endoscopy procedure include infection, bleeding, damage to an organ, perforation of the intestine or stomach and complications from medications. The nurse keeps an eye on everything during and after the procedure to ensure that you won’t have problems, or, if one does occur, that it can be dealt with immediately. A major part of the nursing role is patient advocacy, so if you have any concerns about the way things are going, tell your nurse – she’s in your corner.
Helping the Doctor
The endoscopy nurse is the gastroenterologist’s second pair of hands. She assists during the procedure, which can include everything from opening a pair of sterile gloves or packaged instruments to holding you in a certain position. The nurse is the person who sets up instruments and tools prior to the procedure and checks to make sure all equipment is present and accounted for after the procedure. She’ll help you from the endoscopy table to a gurney and accompany you to the recovery room.
When you have an endoscopy, the surgeon wants you sedated, but still able to move and answer questions. Sometimes an anesthesiologist gives you the medications, but it may also be the endoscopy nurse who mixes and administers the intravenous cocktail that makes you feel groggy. These medications can be dangerous if too much is given, so your nurse will be keeping a close eye on your breathing, pulse and blood pressure, nagging you to take deep breaths and prodding you to wake up after the procedure.
- Mayo School of Health Sciences: Endoscopy Nurse (R.N.)
- Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates, Inc.: Standards of Clinical Practice and Role Delineations
- Nurse.com: Gastroenterology/Endoscopy Nurse
- American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy: Guidelines for Conscious Sedation and Monitoring During Gastrointestinal Endoscopy
Beth Greenwood is an RN and has been a writer since 2010. She specializes in medical and health topics, as well as career articles about health care professions. Greenwood holds an Associate of Science in nursing from Shasta College.