Digestion of food. Important. Because without fuel, the body can’t function. The intricacies of the breakdown of whole foods to usable molecules is amazing. More amazing is how most times it all goes well in spite of our providing less than optimum nutrition.
For those patients who run into problems with the GI system, either due to mechanical problems or chemical inadequacies, there is plenty that can be done both by physicians and nurses.
In order for proper digestion to occur, not only does there need to be the mechanical and chemical breakdown of food but the food needs to be adequately mixed so absorption by the intestinal walls can occur. This action which occurs in the small intestines is call segmentation.
Movement of the food through the length of the gastrointestinal tract is controlled through peristalsis, the muscular activity of the GI tract.
In addition to the many specific technical nursing skills related to the GI system there is the usually underrated nursing skill of offering proper nutrition at appropriate times, encouraging adequate fluids, assessing each patient’s ability to masticate (chew) and swallow properly as well as assessment of bowel habits to prevent constipation or diarrhea.
These basic assessment skills can provide information to the physician which alerts him or her to a need for further testing and evaluation. As always, a sharp eye to deviations from normal may avert bigger problems in the future for your patient.
Once the problems have reached a point that requires more intervention than making sure the patient eats right, your ability to carry out nursing procedures correctly comes into play.
If there is a nursing skill related to the gastrointestinal system that hasn’t been addressed, just drop me a line and I’ll work on getting a page created.