1. Wright, Kathy B. PhD(c), RN, CGRN, CS

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This weekend, I spent a few days in the mountains of Santa Fe, New Mexico. The area reminded me so much of Arizona, especially having arrived home just a few weeks ago from the 29th Annual SGNA Educational Course in Phoenix. The far western states are so different from the rolling hills and green grass areas of the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex where I live. I loved the orange and brown desert views surrounded by mountains covered with a patchwork of green timber. The air was cool and the atmosphere was so relaxed. And oh, those sunsets... a watercolor palette every night. What a great place to get away!


As I left Santa Fe and headed for home, I thought back on the great experiences I had in Phoenix just a few weeks prior. The trip to Santa Fe was with my church choir; the trip to Phoenix was spent with nursing colleagues. I must admit, shopping for beautiful Native American jewelry was one highlight of both trips. The food was also incredible in both cities. But the real bargain from my trips West was the nursing knowledge I brought home with me from Phoenix. The educational offerings at the educational meeting were diverse and incredibly informative. I'm always amazed at how much I learn at the Annual Course. Being a professional student, I can't get enough information. And I'm just lucky enough to belong to a nursing organization that excels in educating its members! From the general sessions to the break-out and special interest group sessions, the educational offerings were superb.


The Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates' (SGNA) primary mission is to educate nurses and associates in the care of gastroenterology patients. That mission drives every decision made by the SGNA board of directors. Education is our priority as an organization. But how much of a priority is it for you as an individual? Are you working from knowledge you learned from your preceptor 10 years ago when you entered gastrointestinal (GI) nursing practice? Or worse, are you banking on the knowledge you gained from nursing school to carry you through your career? You'd better wake up! Healthcare in the 21st century requires practitioners in every area to obtain ongoing education about the latest trends in care, patient expectations, economic issues, and technology. Nurses in particular, as the coordinators of care in the American healthcare system, must stay actively involved in gaining pertinent information regarding every aspect of their role as care provider.


Having been blessed with the opportunity to represent SGNA at several international GI nursing events, I must tell you I no longer take for granted the resources I have available for nursing education. In the United States, we just expect to have what we need when we need it. Many colleagues around the world, on the other hand, yearn for access to the latest nursing journals, opportunities to further their formal education, unlimited Internet access, and the chance to network with other nurses about improving patient care. They "devour" SGNA Practice Statements and Procedure Manuals. A single copy of Gastroenterology Nursing obtained at a display booth becomes a treasured possession. Over and over again, nurses and associates outside the United States look at me and ask, "Do your members know how lucky they are? We have nothing like this. We have no money. We have no resources. We are few in number. I would give anything to have this kind of help all the time!"


But the lack of resources isn't just an international experience. We have colleagues in our communities practicing in isolation. They have no idea standards are in place to help them deliver quality care in GI nursing practice. They've never heard of SGNA. They are struggling and have no idea that help is available! We've got to spread the word. Education is a priority and we can fill the need.


I have certainly become convinced that as GI nurses and associates, we must stop taking for granted the opportunities we have to gather more knowledge. Continuing to pursue additional formal education is a possibility for everyone, regardless of geographic location, thanks to many credible online degree programs. Online learning offers flexibility in hours and minimizes travel time. Within our specialty, 80 SGNA regionals exist to support the local educational needs of nurses caring for GI patients. Video and audio tapes, study guides, journal offerings, regional and national educational meetings-the opportunities to learn are abundant and the choices are diverse.


Nurses and associates in gastroenterology should make ongoing education a priority for practice. Read the nursing literature frequently. Discuss what you read with other colleagues and talk about what you are learning. A subscription to Gastroenterology Nursing should be available to staff in every GI unit in the U.S.! Managers should insist that funds be set aside to assist staff with educational opportunities outside their institutions so that staff can network with colleagues and explore creative approaches to patient care issues from a fresh perspective. But don't just "take" from education. We've also got to give back.


Many of you are experts in your area of practice, yet you never teach beyond your day-to-day encounters with others in your practice area. I challenge you to leave your comfort zone and offer educational sessions to nurses outside your immediate work area. Develop a comfort in public speaking "close to home," then submit an abstract to offer an educational session at your regional meeting or the national SGNA course. If public speaking isn't your forte, write an educational article for Gastroenterology Nursing. We have a need for educational articles directed at every level of practice: beginners, advanced practice, and old-timers. The point is, make a commitment to education and follow through. Develop an attitude of career-oriented learning. Participate in active learning by attending educational sessions, offering education derived from your area of expertise, and role-modeling an attitude of learning. We have incredible resources for education available. Don't take them for granted. Use these resources, and be a resource.


For a complete list of SGNA educational resources, be sure to visit, and share SGNA with others in the specialty. We've got to make sure others know about these available resources. Our GI colleagues need information, and their patients deserve the benefit of knowledgeable healthcare providers. Education is a priority. It's a win-win for everyone.



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