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Gastrointestinal Nurse Education

Updated on: 06 May 2022   First published on 13 Jan 2021

Author:  Jennie Burch 

Learning points

  • There are many educational opportunities for gastrointestinal nurses
  • Education can be completed alone by reading or with peers at conferences
  • Learning does not always occur in the classroom, but undertaking master’s-level awards is valuable for nurses



Nurses need to revalidate every 3 years. Part of this process involves the need to prove that personal knowledge has been kept up to date. Thus, it is important to undertake regular continuing professional development (CPD) to ensure safety to practice, but with busy lives it can be difficult to prioritise time.


Educational Opportunities

There are various educational opportunities available to nurses. This has been made easier to access by each nurse receiving £1,000 to spend over a 3-year period on their education. This money is not added to individuals’ pay packets, but should be available to every nurse and allied health professional. However, for many nurses it can be difficult to gain study leave to attend learning opportunities.


Methods of Learning

Education can include organised and structured learning, such as 1-day courses or more intensive university modules. There are CPD opportunities available across the UK, run by individual hospitals, universities, and health-care companies. There are also online educational webinars and podcasts.

In 2020, education had to change direction and become almost exclusively online. However, online education reduces the opportunities for peer-learning, for example at nursing conferences. Meetings run by organisations such as the British Society of Gastroenterology (BSG) and the European Crohn’s and Colitis Organisation (https://www.ecco-ibd.eu/about-ecco/ecco-operational-board/n-ecco.html) often include nursing sections to enable nursing-specific CPD. Hospitals, such as St Mark’s in Harrow, Middlesex (https://www.stmarksacademicinstitute.org.uk/courses/), also run national conferences, such as Frontiers, that have specific nursing sections. Many gastrointestinal-related university modules on liver, endoscopy, stoma care, inflammatory bowel disease, and other topics are available across the UK.

Other ways in which nurses can meet their CPD requirements is through reading and critiquing journal articles. Publishing knowledge gained from university assignments, audits, and research, such as in the journal Gastrointestinal Nursing (https://www.magonlinelibrary.com/journal/gasn) enables wider dissemination. For more-experienced nurses, there are opportunities to present at conferences and author peer-review articles. For senior nurses, additional roles exist, for instance being an expert witness. Other speciality-specific roles include being on gastrointestinal nursing committees, such as that of the BSG (https://www.bsg.org.uk/people/nurses/) or the Association of Stoma Care Nurses (https://ascnuk.com).



It is important to reflect on the role of nurses working in the specialism of gastrointestinal care and consider issues, such as how to ensure that nurses working on the wards, in specialist departments (eg, endoscopy), or as specialist nurses in gastrointestinal areas, are appropriately trained.

Organisations such as the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) publish a range of documents about nursing specialities and nurses working at higher levels. It is accepted that nurses working in a speciality should have a minimum of a degree, but in 2003 the RCN advocated that specialist nurses should aim for a master’s degree.1 In 2009, the RCN assessed the role of the stoma specialist nurses, considering that there are several key aspects to their role,2 namely:

  • Clinical
  • Consultancy
  • Management
  • Education
  • Research and audit

The RCN has published guidance on educational needs for all specialist nurses who work at advanced levels, suggesting that they should aim to achieve master’s-level awards.3 These could be a 60-credit post-graduate certificate, a 120-credit post-graduate diploma, or the full 180-credit master’s degree.

In addition, specialist nurses should be practicing within four pillars: 1) advanced clinical practice; 2) leadership; 3) facilitation of learning and education; and 4) research and development. Thus, it can be seen that the RCN values education within specialities. The RCN also values evidence-based care, directed by evidence and guidelines.4


Time Commitments

The time commitment required for studying needs to be borne in mind. Each university credit equates to 10 hours of study, so undertaking a part-time post-graduate certificate will require a commitment of about 10 hours per week for 1 year. However, the rewards of undertaking gastrointestinal education and the learning involved make this worth the time spent learning.



It is essential for nurses working within the field of gastrointestinal nursing to maintain their education to ensure that the care they provide is evidence-based and current. How this education is undertaken is something that each nurse needs to determine individually to meet their personal and clinical needs.

  1. Royal College of Nursing. A framework for adult cancer nursing. London: Royal College of Nursing. 2003.
  2. Royal College of Nursing. Clinical nurse specialist stoma care. 2009.  http://www.acpgbi.org.uk/content/uploads/2016/01/Clinical-nurse-specialists-Stoma-care.pdf (accessed Dec 21, 2020).
  3. Royal College of Nursing. Standards for advanced level nursing practice. 2018. file:///C:/Users/rasht/AppData/Local/Temp/PDF-007038.pdf (accessed Dec 21, 2020).
  4. Royal College of Nursing. Learning and development strategy. 2020. https://www.rcn.org.uk/professional-development/education-learning-and-development-strategy (accessed Dec 21, 2020).

Author Biography

Jennie Burch

Jennie Burch works in St Mark’s Hospital as the Head of Gastrointestinal Nursing. The nurse education team at St Mark’s run a variety of study days, masterclasses, and university-accredited modules related to various gastrointestinal topics. Jennie has a keen interest in most things gastrointestinal, having worked previously in stoma care, gastrointestinal research, and colorectal enhanced recovery after surgery. Jennie has published and presented locally, nationally, and internationally on these and other topics.

CPD - Learning Review

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Gastrointestinal Nurse Education

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