1. Shellnutt, Cathleen MSN, APRN, AGCNS-BC, CGRN

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When I became a nurse in 1996, I never imagined that I would be writing my first editorial for a nursing journal. I also did not imagine being a published author or having the passion that I do today for my specialty in nursing. I fell in love with the gastroenterology patient during my first job on a gastrointestinal (GI) medical-surgical unit. The patient population was varied. They were young with GI bleeds and inflammatory bowel disease. They were older with colon cancer. They were young and old with pancreatic cancer. This first year of nursing was filled with learning, healing, and loss. The loss drove me to pursue another way to care for gastroenterology patients.

Cathleen Shellnutt, ... - Click to enlarge in new windowCathleen Shellnutt, MSN, APRN, AGCNS-BC, CGRN

I transferred to the GI Endoscopy Lab in my second year of nursing. GI Endoscopy was perfect. I honed my skills at starting intravenous lines. We treated outpatients and inpatients, and at the end of the day, everyone went home or back to their inpatient room. I learned from the physicians and my nursing peers about how to care for the endoscopy patient and became familiar with the GI anatomy. In 1998, I had the opportunity to travel to a post-Digestive Disease Week (DDW) conference in South Carolina where I met Nancy Schlossberg for the first time. This educational experience widened my perspective and ignited a passion to do more.


In mid-1999, I was given the opportunity to open the second endoscopy surgery center for a large gastroenterology practice in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. I was the youngest nurse in the building, but the surgery center was my responsibility. This role taught me how to use resources to guide the policies and practices of the facility. The Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA) and its publications began to guide my practice as a gastroenterology nurse. I expanded my knowledge to include billing and coding regulations, equipment procurement, supply purchasing, Medicare certification, credentialing, and human resource management.


In 2002, my husband's job moved us to New Jersey, and I was introduced to office-based endoscopy. I was hired by a five-physician practice as an additional RN and then eventually managed the practice. Again, I attended an educational seminar and encountered Nancy Schlossberg. She advised me on how to assist my practice into providing safer care by implementing one change at a time and use evidence to implement the changes. These physicians valued my input and sent me to my first SGNA Annual Course in Dallas.


While at this New Jersey practice, I managed patients with Hepatitis C who were being treated with interferon and ribavirin. I also managed Crohn patients being treated with Remicade. Our practice began performing capsule endoscopy before it had its own current procedural terminology (CPT) code. It was an exciting time in my career, because I felt I was making an impact in the patients' lives and improving care.


In 2005, we ventured back to Texas. Several physicians with whom I had previously worked were opening their own endoscopy surgery center and hired me to open it. I was involved during construction and could use my past experiences and local peers as resources. I was asked by a peer to help with the North Texas SGNA. We planned a large regional conference that also offered the certification review course. Laura Schneider was the President of NTSGNA at the time and she has become a valued peer. I attended the annual SGNA conference in Baltimore, and I was becoming more and more engaged in how I could contribute more to my specialty.


In 2010, I returned to the hospital setting. I quickly realized that the hospital setting was my favorite due to the complexity and variety of patients and procedures. The hospital was fortunate to have an interventional gastroenterologist who received referrals for difficult cases. My knowledge regarding hepatobiliary diseases expanded. I also became a board member of North Texas SGNA and began to have greater responsibility in providing education to our members.


Endoscope reprocessing has always been a passion of mine due to the risk of harm to the patient if not completed correctly. In 2011, our facility performed a project to reduce the number of Cidex soaking pans in the hospital and standardize the documentation of high-level disinfection. The project was named a best practice by The Joint Commission. This was also the first poster abstract I submitted for an annual course and presented it at the annual course in Phoenix. I was beginning to reach beyond my facility's walls.


I had the privilege to attend an evidence-based practice fellowship similar to the one SGNA offers. My project was about implementing evidence-based guidelines for bronchoscopy in the GI endoscopy setting. The project was well-received at my institution, and I presented it as a poster at the SGNA annual course in Austin. I also took the plunge and volunteered to be a moderator. Introducing speakers at the annual course was the baby step I needed to get in front of an audience.


In Nashville, I presented my first podium presentation. The topic was about gastric antral vascular ectasia and treatment options. I was excited and nervous, and may have fumbled a bit, but ultimately succeeded. My North Texas colleague, Kathy Baker, introduced me to some SGNA board members and my networking circle began to grow. I was selected to participate on the 43rd SGNA Annual Course Program Committee. I had just completed my Master's degree and was also selected to be an SGNA Scholar. All SGNA Scholars commit to peer-reviewing articles for Gastroenterology Nursing.


The experience of peer-reviewing, writing abstracts to present, and completing my Master's program gave me the confidence to submit my first publication. I chose to submit my Master's project that explored endoscope reprocessing technology and its impact on pathogen transmission. My manuscript was accepted, but not without some revisions. I completed the requested revisions and soon became a published author.


My broad experience, willingness to serve, passion for GI nursing, and wonderful mentors have led me to where I find myself today, as the Associate Editor of our society's journal. In this role, I am able to serve you by providing relevant and current knowledge related to the care of GI patients. My professional journey is far from over, and I am learning new things every day and influencing practice in a variety of ways. My hope is that your professional journey will lead you to share your knowledge with your peers, because stronger teams lead to better care!