More nurses are being encouraged by gastroenterology charge nurse and nurse endoscopy trainee Karen Kempin to follow in her footsteps.

Kempin has had both a key role in readying Southern District Health Board to join the national rollout of the National Bowel Screening Programme last month, plus she is also one of only four nurses in the country undertaking endoscopy training.

Becoming a nurse endoscopist enables her to independently carry out gastroscopy and colonoscopy procedures to help reduce colonoscopy waiting lists.

Her work is being celebrated by Southern DHB for International Nurses Day to highlight a nurse who was going ‘above and beyond’ traditional nursing roles.

Kempin said she was in a bit of a “unique position” in being both the charge nurse manager for Dunedin Hospital’s gastroenterology department and being trained by her medical colleagues to do endoscopies.

“The classic role for endoscopy nurses has been to stand by the doctors and take biopsies, do histology as well as making sure the patient is okay during the procedures,” said Kempin. “Whereas I’m now in the process of taking it a step further; I’m the one running the endoscope and doing the procedure, so that’s very exciting.”

As well as the four nurses in New Zealand who are completing endoscopy training, another four are currently starting the process with postgraduate study. Once fully qualified, endoscopy nurses are able to deliver gastroscopy and colonoscopy without a doctor present. “For the moment I can do upper gut scopes independently in Dunedin Hospital – I’ve done close to 400 of those – but for colonoscopy, I’m still having a doctor in the room, giving me tips and pointers and making sure that I’m doing it safely.”

Kempin said one of the main challenges for nurses taking on this role was sedation. “If the patient chooses to have sedation, you have to be a nurse prescriber, so that’s the next stage for nurse endoscopists, working out how we are going to manage the prescribing side of a procedure.”

She said she would encourage other nurses to consider specialising in gastroenterology.

“Being in gastroenterology is wonderful because there’s a real scope for advance practice roles, to go above and beyond what’s always been a traditional nursing role. Plus, I really enjoy spending time with our teams of nurses in SDHB, doing training and looking at the quality of a service in particular. That’s one of my passions, making sure we do quality improvement constantly in all of our services. That includes talking to patients and finding out what they think, as well as with teams of nurses and doctors of course.”

Kempin said she had also enjoyed working on the rollout of the National Bowel Screening Programme across Southern. Her work included ensuring the DHB had good processes for managing the additional patients it expects, and updating the documentation around the procedures and guidelines. “Our DHB has some of the highest rates of bowel cancer in the country, and New Zealand some of the highest in the world. So bowel screening is such a valuable programme for our district, not just the people who do the test but their families, whānau and their wider communities. It’s great to be a part of it.”





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