1. Baker, Kathy A. PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, CGRN, Editor

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Over the Atlantic Ocean, I heard the overhead announcement[horizontal ellipsis]if there is a medical personnel on board, please let the flight attendants know. I kept reading, sure someone else would respond. My daughter, however, pressed the flight attendant button. Seconds later I was summoned to the front of the plane to assist another passenger. As I headed to the first class section, I was thankful to see another passenger approaching from the front of the plane. We reached the passenger simultaneously and proceeded to assess the patient.


He asked the questions. "Are you short of breath?" "Do you have any heart problems?" "Are you diabetic?" "Are you taking any medications?" "Have you eaten?" I monitored the afflicted woman's pulse and listened for a blood pressure after he could not hear one (I ended up having to palpate because of the pitiful stethoscope and noise of the plane). We consulted back and forth, agreeing she had taken too many pain pills while enjoying alcoholic beverages on the flight. We directed her to eat and drink and avoid any further alcohol and advised her that she should be fine.


As the "crisis" subsided, we introduced ourselves to each other in the aisle. Amazingly, he laughed and said "Boy, I'm glad you were here. I felt a little out of my league. I'm a gastroenterologist!!" I laughed and shocked him with the news I was a gastroenterology nurse, and Editor of our society journal at that!! We could not have orchestrated that meeting if we had tried. I found it incredible that two gastroenterology providers would meet in the air over the Atlantic Ocean and deliver patient care. (The "patient" survived, by the way.)


Even more amazing was that on the first leg of this trip, from Dallas to Chicago, I had chuckled when I saw a man a few rows ahead of me reading Sleisenger & Fordtran's Gastrointestinal and Liver Disease (Feldman et al., 2006). As we deboarded, I queried him and found he was headed to a gastroenterology conference in Chicago. What a small world!! He was delighted that I appreciated the text he was reading. How encouraging it is to see that our specialty is much more prevalent than in past years. I found it stunning that on two flights on the same day, I would meet two other gastroenterology practitioners. You just never know!!


When I think back over my career, I can assure you I never envisioned gastroenterology nursing in my future. In fact, when I entered nursing, I didn't even know there was a specialty for gastroenterology nurses. Thankfully, I had the opportunity as a medical intensive care unit (ICU) nurse to assist with many bedside endoscopies that I thoroughly enjoyed. The gastroenterologists were delighted to have someone who actually enjoyed assisting with messy gastrointestinal (GI) bleeds, instead of running the other way when the procedure cart rolled onto the unit!! A few years later when I had the opportunity to become the manager of the GI unit at our county facility, a large teaching hospital with a highly respected GI training program, I jumped at the chance. And I've never looked back!! Surgical and medical ICU experiences, mother-baby, high risk antepartum, nursing administration[horizontal ellipsis]none of these experiences in my nursing career fuel my passion the way GI endoscopy has. You just never know!!


I believe our specialty is in many ways a "best kept secret" from many nurses and technicians. Although I was fortunate to be recruited into the specialty through those two gastroenterologists who enjoyed my appreciation for gastroenterology, many other colleagues may not ever have an opportunity to explore our specialty unless we give them opportunities to hear about our practice, learn about our role in supporting patient care, and publicize the important work we do every day. As we celebrate "Gastroenterology Nursing Day," make an extra effort to get the word out. You just never know how you might influence another colleague to discover the opportunities of GI nursing practice.




Feldman, M, Friedman, L. S, & Sleisenger, M. H. (Eds.). (2006). Sleisenger & Fordtran's gastrointestinal and liver disease (8th ed.). Philadelphia: WB Saunders. [Context Link]