Gastrointestinal (GI) Nursing

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Everything you ever wanted to know about the role, requirements, certifications, and salaries of the Gastrointestinal Nurse in the GI lab.

by Brenda F. Johnson Brenda F. Johnson, MSN

Specializes in Gastrointestinal Nursing. Has 30 years experience.

What is a GI Nurse?

Gastrointestinal (GI) Nursing

Gastrointestinal (GI) Nurses specialize in issues and diseases of the stomach, esophagus, and bowel. This specialty area is a job that continually evolves as equipment improves, new procedures are developed, and science learns more about how the GI tract functions.

Being a Gastrointestinal Nurse is a complex, but interesting job. Knowing the intestinal tract landmarks and disease processes are an important part of the job. Infection control issues are also a huge part of GI nursing. Not all GI labs have nurses wash the scopes, but even so, they must be educated on the cleaning process and storage aspects of the scopes.

Most Common Procedures in a GI Lab (not all-inclusive)

  • Esophagogastroduodenoscopy
  • Colonoscopy
  • Endoscopic Retrograde Cholangiopancreatography
  • Small Bowel Enteroscopy

Other Procedures (not all-inclusive)

  • Endoscopic ultrasound
  • Bravo Ph study
  • Esophageal and/or Anorectal Manometry
  • Radiofrequency Ablation
  • Percutaneous Endoscopic Gastrostomy
  • Fecal Transplant

GI Procedure Personnel

There are two personnel in the room in addition to the physician. One must be an RN; the other one can be an RN or a Tech. The majority of facilities use anesthesia, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA), to administer propofol intravenously, and in others, the RN provides conscious sedation through the IV such as versed, sublimaze, benadryl, and valium.

Role of the RN in the GI Lab

The RN can function as the Circulator in the room or as the tech. The exact duties will be different depending on the layout of the facility.

Circulator RN

  • Chart all of the information: Patient name, doctor name, staff, scope used, start/stop/cecal time, findings, procedure, etc.
  • Label specimens and enter them into the computer for processing
  • Use closed-loop communication with post-op diagnosis and specimens
  • Be available to help the tech, such as getting the equipment that is not closely available
  • Provide pressure on the abdomen as needed to assist the doctor
  • Be available to help the CRNA if needed for airway management, emergency equipment, and medication
  • Be the third eye watching the screen for abnormal findings, such as polyps

Tech

  • Directly assist the GI physician with obtaining specimens with biopsy forceps, snares, etc.
  • Set up the room before the procedure with everything needed for the procedure: scope, cleaning material such as enzymatic soap, towels, 4x4s, etc.
  • Clean the scopes after the procedures are finished, called bedside cleaning which is an important step in infection prevention. It includes sucking 500cc of enzymatic soap/water through the scope after blowing air through it, then wiping it down with a soapy lint-free cloth. Knowing the scope anatomy and handling procedures is vital to keeping the scope working properly and prevent damage
  • Know infection control standards and how to maintain clean/dirty surfaces as well as possibly sterile ones.
  • Perform closed-loop communication

Desired Qualities

  • The GI nurse must be focused in order to process all the information/activity that happens in a procedure.
  • Good communication is an asset not only with each other, but with the physician. 
  • Willingness to learn - every day can be a teaching experience in the GI lab. 
  • Organization is an important skill to have while working in the GI lab. The fast pace and turnover requires the nurse to work in a coordinated fashion with the rest of the personnel in the room.
  • Critical thinking is an asset in the GI lab, there are often emergencies that require the nurse to be forward-thinking,
  • Education is a large part of being a GI nurse, so having the knowledge and skill to convey disease processes, their treatment, and long-term management is important for the patients

Work Areas (not all-inclusive)

  • GI lab in freestanding ambulatory units
  • Hospital GI lab (often require the nurses to be on-call which means covering 24 hours for emergencies)
  • Physician clinic/office GI lab

Job Requirements

  • Graduate from accredited RN nursing program
  • Degree: Diploma, ADN, BSN or higher
  • Successfully pass NCLEX-RN
  • Current, unencumbered RN license in U.S. state of practice

Professional Organizations / Certification

Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA) - SGNA's goal is to educate, use evidence-based practice, safe practice. They provide guidelines for scope cleaning, procedures, and all things GI

American Board of Certification for Gastroenterology Nurses (ABCGN) - The ABCGN is the accrediting body that sets the rigorous standards for certification.

Average Salary (2020)

According to ZipRecruiter, the average annual pay for a GI Lab Nurse in the U.S. is $92,319 with salaries as high as $150,500 and as low as $24,000.

According to Glassdoor, the average annual salary in the U.S. for a certified gastroenterology Registered Nurse (RN) is $65,870.

Brenda F. Johnson, BSN, RN - Specialty: 25 years of experience in Gastrointestinal Nursing

90 Articles   302 Posts

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12 Comment(s)

Brenda F. Johnson, MSN

Specializes in Gastrointestinal Nursing. Has 30 years experience. 90 Articles; 302 Posts

My pleasure

Chickenlady, ADN

Specializes in ER, GI, Occ Health. Has 8 years experience. 139 Posts

I have enjoyed GI nursing.  My only issue is that, as with many procedural positions, when the cases are done, you are done.  I did GI full time for a couple years, but had to find something to augment the position because while I was obligated 40 hours a week, I was actually being paid for ~32 hours a week.  While that is great if you have kids and like getting out of work at 3pm, or if you have a second earner in the house, it is not easy when you go in expecting 40 hours of $$.  

beckyboo1

Has 30 years experience. 378 Posts

Interesting read.  I work in a free standing outpatient endoscopy center.  In our rooms, there is a CRNA to give propofol, the physician and 1 nurse only.  We assist the physican,  label specimens and do the computer entries.  Our techs are not part of the procedure but rather they set up the rooms between cases and wash the scopes.

Kabin54

Has 18 years experience. 2 Posts

Can you tell me how many preop and PACU beds and nurses or MA's work at time per operating room 

Txdude254

11 Posts

Thank you for this very interesting read. Does a painting your certification make you more marketable?

 

Brenda F. Johnson, MSN

Specializes in Gastrointestinal Nursing. Has 30 years experience. 90 Articles; 302 Posts

22 hours ago, beckyboo1 said:

Interesting read.  I work in a free standing outpatient endoscopy center.  In our rooms, there is a CRNA to give propofol, the physician and 1 nurse only.  We assist the physican,  label specimens and do the computer entries.  Our techs are not part of the procedure but rather they set up the rooms between cases and wash the scopes.

That's a lot of work for one person! I know SGNA recommends 2 nurses.

Brenda F. Johnson, MSN

Specializes in Gastrointestinal Nursing. Has 30 years experience. 90 Articles; 302 Posts

6 hours ago, Txdude254 said:

Thank you for this very interesting read. Does a painting your certification make you more marketable?

 

I guess it depends on where you work, but for the most part absolutely! They know that someone who is certified has to earn a lot of CEUs in Gi, so are often more up on the newest procedures, research, and disease processes. A lot of facilities offer hourly compensation or bonuses for certification.

Brenda F. Johnson, MSN

Specializes in Gastrointestinal Nursing. Has 30 years experience. 90 Articles; 302 Posts

21 hours ago, Kabin54 said:

Can you tell me how many preop and PACU beds and nurses or MA's work at time per operating room 

I think every place is different depending on the space and layout. Our GI unit is separate from Day Surgery (the place where they get ready and recover). Per room, there should be an RN, and a tech (per SGNA standards) and the tech can be an RN as well. I think that the recommendation of preop/recovery rooms is 3 per procedure room. (I could be off on that number)

Brenda F. Johnson, MSN

Specializes in Gastrointestinal Nursing. Has 30 years experience. 90 Articles; 302 Posts

On 10/13/2020 at 1:32 PM, Chickenlady said:

I have enjoyed GI nursing.  My only issue is that, as with many procedural positions, when the cases are done, you are done.  I did GI full time for a couple years, but had to find something to augment the position because while I was obligated 40 hours a week, I was actually being paid for ~32 hours a week.  While that is great if you have kids and like getting out of work at 3pm, or if you have a second earner in the house, it is not easy when you go in expecting 40 hours of $$.  

That's very true, when your done, your done. Right now in our unit, we have been working on the average of 10 hours per pay period of overtime. But there has been times when we have been much slower. We are at close to 90% blocked time, which keeps us very busy! Another way to supplement is to take extra call (but that isn't popular)

Kabin54

Has 18 years experience. 2 Posts

So 3 bed in preop and post op per procedure room. Does one nurse just work the preop post op area, we do 8 procedures in the morning and it gets extremely busy for just on RN to do the preop, ( consent signed, HX, med list, vitals, IV,  and the post op, beds cleaned wiped down and everything else by themselves in that 3 hr - 4hr time frame.  Just wondering any tips on how to run it more efficiently.  Thanks