Gastrointestinal (GI) Nurses Will Help Put You At Ease For Your Colonoscopy

Melissa Michael RN, BSN
GI Resource Coordinator, Center for Digestive Diseases

Smart Living: Research has shown that the increase in colonoscopy screening has lowered the mortality rate for colorectal cancer in this country. Given that benefit, why are many people afraid of getting one, and how do you help them?

Melissa Michael: Not having knowledge of the procedure can make patients fearful, and they will frequently express anxiety to us about it.  Patients will ask questions such as:

“Will I wake up during the procedure?”
“Will I have pain?”
“What if you find something bad?”

Patients may have also heard of a bad experience during a family member or friend's procedure which heightens their anxiety. This is when communication from a cheerful, compassionate, and competent GI nurse is the key to calming them. Education begins during pre-op because when patients understand the process from beginning to end, it helps reduce the fear of the unknown. The patient has the opportunity to speak with the GI nurse, anesthesiologist, anesthetist, and the physician prior to undergoing anesthesia.  We always want our patients to feel confident that they have been heard.

There are also some simple things we do that helps put our patients at ease—assuring them that bathrooms are accessible, giving them a warm blanket, and turning down the lights to avoid glare.

SL: What about embarrassment about the private nature of the procedure? Do some patients struggle with that?

MM: Yes, and that goes back to the anxiety, the panic of “My backside is going to be on display for all to see!” We take every precaution to protect the modesty of our patients by only exposing the area we need, and at the last moment. But also it is important to know that the GI team is more focused on what's inside than outside! We do this every day. And as nurses, we are focused on providing our patients with the best possible experience. Both safety and satisfaction are paramount. We are specifically trained for this work and it is what we love, so we come each day ready to shine.

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