Genetics: How Can Advanced Practice Nurses Stay Informed?

Michelle A. Beauchesne, DNSc, RN, CPNP

Disclosures

Topics in Advanced Practice Nursing eJournal. 2004;4(2) 

In This Article

Advances in Genetics

In 2003, genetic scientists exceeded their own expectations and completed mapping the entire human genome 3 years in advance of the projected deadline. It has been a fast climb since Watson and Crick first identified the double helix known as DNA. Elementary school children are now making models of DNA in first- and second-grade science projects; high-school biology classes are studying differences in methods of chromosomal analysis; and popular television shows such as CSI regularly use genetic terminology in weekly episodes. Yet many health professionals still deny the need to integrate genetics into their practices.

We are no longer in the Stone Age of the Flintstones but have been jet-propelled right into the cosmos of the Jetsons. What were once visions for the future are now realities of today. Health professionals need to acknowledge that genetic science is not just for specialists but for generalists as well. All clinicians face the challenge to identify individuals who may benefit from genetic services; screen those individuals and families who may be at risk for developing genetic disorders; and efficiently access information on resources, referrals, availability of diagnostic testing, and interpretation of findings.[1]

The challenge facing nurses is how to be kept informed and current. Strategies needed to maintain expertise include acquiring new knowledge, developing new skills, and changing attitudes about genetics. Most important, nurses need to improve their accessibility of new knowledge. Genetics must become a significant part of any health profession curriculum.

Although there will continue to be a great need for nurses with specific expertise in genetics, such as the members of International Society of Nurses in Genetics (ISONG), it is essential that all nurses have basic competencies in genetics. Emerging clinicians must be educated so that considering genetic information becomes second nature. These efforts must be cost-efficient and accessible for all clinicians.

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