The Gastroenterology (GI) service, which includes the GI clinic, is a team of health professionals who help patients who have problems with their esophagus (food pipe), stomach, bowels, liver, pancreas, or nutrition.
How we help
Examples of conditions and diseases that we treat are Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac disease, gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD), eosinophilic esophagitis, functional abdominal pain, irritable bowel syndrome, liver disease, intestinal failure, chronic pancreatitis, failure to thrive, and constipation.
Our patients come from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, and sometimes Newfoundland and Labrador. We accept new referrals from family physicians, pediatricians, or nurse practitioners for patients who are less than 16 years old.
The GI clinic uses a multidisciplinary team approach. This means there are many different health professionals who help with the care of our patients, including physicians, registered nurses, dietitians, social workers, psychologists, booking clerks, and research and administrative staff. The GI clinic works closely with the Pediatric Health Psychology Team and the Feeding Team.
Our patients can be seen as an outpatient, which means they will be seen in clinic, or as an inpatient, which means the GI team will help care for them when they are admitted to the hospital. We also have travelling clinics in Saint John, NB, Fredericton, NB, Summerside, PEI, and Sydney, NS.
What to expect
Patients may receive an appointment at the GI clinic if their family physician, pediatrician, or nurse practitioner makes a referral. They may also be given an appointment if they developed a problem with their GI system or nutrition and were seen by a gastroenterologist (GI physician) while they were admitted to the IWK.
When an appointment has been booked, you'll receive a letter in the mail to tell you when your child’s appointment is, what to bring to the appointment, and how to prepare. Be sure to read and follow all the instructions in the letter. It’s helpful to write down and bring any questions you have for the GI team.
The GI clinic is located on the 2nd floor (main floor) of the IWK’s Children’s Building. It’s inside the Medical Day Unit, which is past the blue elevators. When you come into the Medical Day Unit (MDU) you’ll need to take a number and sit in the waiting area. The registration clerk will call you to the desk using your number, and will make sure your child’s information is up to date. You will return to the waiting area until a member of the GI team calls your child’s name. Sometimes there can be long waits during your clinic visit. Please bring activities and snacks for yourself and your child, and plan to be at the clinic for 1-2 hours.
When your child’s name is called, a member of the GI team will greet you. Your child will have his/her weight and height measured. Sometimes we will check your child’s blood pressure and temperature. You’ll then be brought to a clinic examination room. A member of the GI team will ask about the patient’s medications, and recent health. You’ll see the GI physician, who will ask more questions and examine your child. You may also see other members of the GI team while you are in clinic, like the nurse, social worker, dietitian, or research staff. After your clinic visit you can return home.
Between visits to the clinic, support is available by phone from GI team members, from your family physician or pediatrician, or from your nearest Emergency Department if your child is very unwell. The GI Clinic is not a walk-in clinic, so all GI questions are dealt with either by scheduled appointment or by phone.
After discussion and with your input, the GI team will develop a care plan for your child. This plan might include blood work or other tests to find out what is causing your child to feel unwell, and special treatments such as medication, diet changes, tube feeds, and referrals to other health professionals.
Some of the tests the GI clinic commonly uses include ultrasound, MRE, which is a special type of MRI, and Endoscopy—or scope. A scope is a small, flexible tube with a camera on one end. After the patient receives a medicine to sleep, a scope is used to see from the mouth down into the esophagus (food pipe), stomach and small bowel (Gastroscopy / Upper GI Endoscopy), or from the bottom up into the large bowel (Colonoscopy / Lower GI Endoscopy).
Who you’ll meet
Your child may also be referred to other teams of health professionals for help, such as the Pediatric Health Psychology Team, the Feeding Team, or other specialists.
The Pediatric Health Psychology Team
A group of psychologists who work with patients and families to help them cope with their illness or with certain parts of treatment (blood work, swallowing pills, procedures, etc.) They also help patients learn to develop goals and problem-solve so they can live well at home and school even when they have a lifelong (chronic) illness.
The Feeding Team
This team helps patients who may have problems with their body or behaviour which keep them from eating normally. They develop specialized care plans and teach patients and families skills to help with eating. The feeding team includes a psychologist, a speech language pathologist, and a feeding specialist.
One of our clerks books clinic appointments and coordinates booking of special tests such as ultrasound and MRE; the other books scopes (gastroscopy, colonoscopy) and OR procedures such as liver biopsies.
The registration clerk registers your child for their appointment when they arrive at the GI clinic. They also keep their health information updated in our computer system.
GI Registered Nurses
There are two GI registered nurses who have special knowledge in managing patients with GI conditions. They help assess your child in clinic by measuring their height and weight; ask questions to learn about your child’s health and help the rest of the GI team develop a care plan for your child; and teach families about medications and treatments and help ensure that each child’s care plan is followed.
There are two GI dietitians who have special knowledge in managing the nutrition of patients with GI conditions. They manage patients who need special nutrition by asking questions about their diet and overall health, and provide teaching to patients and families so they can manage their diets well.
There are four GI physicians who specialize in the care and treatment of children and teenagers with GI conditions
GI Social Worker
The GI team has a social worker who helps support our patients and families. She helps them learn how to cope with the mental, emotional, financial, and other challenges of living with a GI condition. She also helps coordinate the care of patients and families with unique needs, such as when patients need special approval for medications or when patients need to travel to another hospital for treatment.
GI Administrative Assistants
We have two GI administrative assistants who help our clinic run smoothly.
GI Research Staff
The GI clinic is involved in many research studies, and has several research staff members. You may meet some of our research staff in the GI clinic if your child is eligible for one of their studies. You can choose whether or not to be involved in a study, and this will not impact your child’s care.
Since IWK Health is a teaching hospital, affiliated with Dalhousie University, there are often trainees who are learning to take part in the care of our patients. These include medical students, residents (physicians who are taking training to become specialists), nursing students, social work students, dietetic students, and others.
Accessing this Clinic, Program or Service
The GI clinic is located on the 2nd floor (main floor) of the Children’s Building in the IWK. It is inside the Medical Day Unit, which is just past the blue elevators.
If you are entering the IWK from the parkade on University Avenue, you will come into the Gallery area, which includes Tim Horton’s and the Biggs & Littles Gift Shop. Partway down the Gallery, go down the hallway next to the information desk, which leads toward the green elevators. Turn left after the green elevators and follow the “blue wave” hallway to the intersection next to the blue elevators. Turn right and go down the hallway. You'll see a sign on the ceiling that says “Medical Day Unit”. This is the entrance to the GI clinic, a space which is shared with many other clinics.