Genomics & Nursing: What You Need to Know
Increasing research and application of genomics in healthcare is creating a need for nurses to know their stuff. Just ask Jean Jenkins, Phd, RN, FAAN, senior clinical advisor at the National Human Genome Research Institute.
Jenkins became interested in genomics during an internship at the genome research institute.
At the time, cancer care was just beginning to be influenced by research indicating genetic changes increased breast cancer risk. As the administrator of an oncology program at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center, Jenkins recognized the possibilities of such genetic research for changing the way oncology nurses provide care.
Now, more than 10 years later, Jenkins emphasizes the vital role of nurses as translators of genetics/genomics research for patients and their families.
"It is no longer feasible for oncology nurses to practice without a foundational understanding of genetics as a contributing factor in the process of cancer risk, occurrence and response to interventions," she said. "Similarly, research with other common diseases - cardiovascular, diabetes, mental health disorders, etc. - has identified genetic/genomic factors that influence care outcomes. These advances and their application to common diseases are of direct importance to all nurses."
But where can nurses turn to learn what they need to know?
Jenkins recommends Essentials of Genetic and Genomic Nursing: Competencies, Curricula Guidelines, and Outcome Indicators, available here in PDF format. She also recommends the following sites for supplemental information:
- CDC's Genomics & Health Weekly Update, www.cdc.gov/genomics/update/current.htm
- Genomics & Primary Care, http://www.genetools.org/
- Genetics & Your Practice, www.marchofdimes.com/gyponline/index.bm2
- A Guide to Understanding Genetic Conditions, http://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/
- Genetics is Relevant Now: Nurses' Views and Patient Stories, www.cincinnatichildrens.org/ed/clinical/gpnf/resources/curriculum/relevant-genetics.htm
- International Society of Nurses in Genetics, http://www.isong.org/
- National Cancer Institute Genetic Resources, www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/pdq/genetics/overview/HealthProfessional/page5
- National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics, www.nchpeg.org/
- National Human Genome Research Institute, www.genome.gov/Health/
- National Institute of Nursing Research, www.ninr.nih.gov/Training/TrainingOpportunitiesIntramural/
- U.S. Surgeon General's Family History Initiative, www.hhs.gov/familyhistory/
As for nursing career opportunities in the field of genomics, Jenkins said there are three basic levels: the general nurse who needs a foundational knowledge of genetics/genomics; the advanced practice nurse who incorporates genetics/genomics into a specialty; and the advanced practice nurse with a subspecialty in genetics who is prepared at the master's or doctoral level with additional training in genetics. The scope and standards of practice for genetics/genomics nursing is available from the International Society of Nurses in Genetics (see link above).
"The advanced practice nurse with a subspecialty in genetics can become credentialed by portfolio in recognition of their knowledge and skills," Jenkins added. "But all nurses can make a difference for patients and their families with safe, effective application of emerging scientific discoveries. That can only occur with awareness, understanding and recognition of the relevancy of genetics and genomics for all of healthcare."