UK uses nurse-colonoscopists to fight screening backlog

Performing a colonoscopy requires highly specialized training, and at least in the U.S., is typically performed by a gastroenterologist. However, with specialist shortages predicted across the board as the Baby Boomers age, who will provide such services? In the U.K., at least, nurse colonoscopists have begun to close the gap.

To date, 75 British nurses have become qualified to perform colonoscopies, as long as they work alongside doctors. These nurses, who spend up to six years to prepare for their role, handle about 10 percent of the screening work. In the future, U.K. policymakers may allow the nurses to handle the colonoscopies on their own.

Originally, surgeons in the U.K. were nervous about the arrangement, but they seem to feel better about it as the nurses are succeeding at what they do.

Would U.S. surgeons learn to accept nurse-colonoscopists--as they have nurse-anesthetists--even if they can't handle demand on their own? That remains to be seen.

To learn more about this trend:
- read this piece

Related Articles:
Study: Virtual colonoscopy effective at detecting polyps
Medicare decides not to pay for virtual colonoscopies
Study: No-sedation colonoscopy might work