A Practical Approach to Teaching Genomics for the Primary Care APN

Gary Laustsen, FNP-BC, RN, PhD


April 18, 2011

In This Article

The Need for Genomics Education

Genetics and genomics are emerging topics for the advanced practice nurse (APN) educator and provider. Understanding the basics of these topics can have an eventual impact on the health of individual patients. Additionally, genomic literacy may help APNs to influence the healthcare of patient groups or populations. Dramatic changes in the knowledge base of genetics and research exposing the relatedness of genes, genomes, and the environment provide impetus for APNs to be better informed of these topics. As a result, it is the responsibility of educational institutions to provide the APN student with a general understanding of genetics and genomics to promote effective and evidence-based care.

Because a plethora of meanings is associated with these terms, it is appropriate to first clearly define them. Genetics is the study of individual genes and their impact on single gene disorders. Genomics is the study of all genes in the human genome and their interactions with each other, the environment, and the influence of other psychosocial and cultural factors.[1] As can be garnered from these definitions, genomics is a broader and more encompassing topic and is more closely aligned with the needs of the APN provider. All areas of nursing practice are influenced by the clinical application of genetic/genomic knowledge, hence there is a need to integrate these concepts into educational curricula.[2] Although a basic knowledge of genetics is requisite to having a good understanding of genomics, this article addresses the teaching of genomics.

A general reduction in coursework in the biological sciences and an expanding clinical knowledge base has created a nursing workforce that has had limited formal instruction in genetics or genomics. In addition, the knowledge and application of genomics is rapidly expanding and evolving. These factors present challenges for the primary care APN educator. The goals of a genomic educational program should be relevant to practice, build on existing knowledge, and be designed to enhance the primary care provider's effectiveness.

This article offers APN educators a practical guide to teaching genomics. Suggested activities are appropriate for the development and presentation of genomics courses to students in a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program. The first section addresses teaching a separate genomics in healthcare course, and the second section offers ways to integrate genomic content into existing APN curricula.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.