Written by Rachel Hill Ponko
Michelle Juan, MSN, RN, CGRN, wanted to be a nurse as far back as she can remember.
“As a kid, I wrote that I wanted to be a nurse in my copy of the Dr. Seuss book, ‘My Book About Me,’” says Juan. “Later, while pursuing nursing as a young adult, I knew it was the right fit because there are so many opportunities in nursing to explore.”
While studying nursing, Juan found herself drawn to gastroenterology, a field of medicine that focuses on the health of the digestive system, including the stomach and bowels. GI nurses focus on treating and caring for individuals suffering from diseases and disorders of the digestive tract.
Choosing GI as a specialty exposed Juan to a wide range of opportunities within the nursing profession.
“There is endoscopy, which are your “scopes,” such as colonoscopy, and you have manometry, which tests the motility of your GI tract,” says Juan. “You could also work in a clinic and support providers with triage management of inflammatory bowel disease, liver disease and others. There are also nurse navigators and nurse researchers – and these are just a few examples.”
Juan’s interest in the field only grew stronger after she enrolled in IU School of Nursing’s graduate program. She felt supported and challenged by faculty members whose research and scholarship of the digestive system focus on interventions to reduce the risk of cancer and improve the body’s overall health.
“Dr. Susan Rawl served as my mentor during that time, and it only increased my passion for GI because of her research within that specialty,” says Juan.
Today, Juan serves as the advanced colonoscopy and inherited colorectal syndrome nurse navigator with IU Health Physicians Digestive & Liver Disorders in Indianapolis. When patients are faced with scheduling multiple appointments, she provides much-needed support to make sure they get to the right place. While she enjoys helping patients navigate the system, what truly drives her is a desire to treat the whole person.
“Nursing for me has always been about compassion and care,” says Juan. “We see people at their worst moments more often than their best. I find that perspective very humbling as a nurse. It’s also empowering to know I can make a difference – however big or small – in their care.”
Nursing for me has always been about compassion and care.”
Juan encourages nursing students to explore GI as a clinical rotation and seek out a student membership with the Society of Gastroenterology Nurses and Associates (SGNA) to gain access to educational resources and connect with GI peers.
“You could never get bored in GI with so many subspecialties to learn,” she says.