Genetics in the Clinical Setting

Susan Montgomery, BSN, OCN, GCN; Wendy A. Brouwer, MSN, RN-C, WHNP, AGN-BC; Phyllis C. Everett, MSN, RN, AOCN, APNG, NP-C; Elizabeth Hassen, PhD(c), RN, OCN; Tracy Lowe, PhD(c), MS, RN; Sheila B. McGreal, MSN-CV, RN-BC, ACNS-BC, ANP-BC; Julie Eggert, PhD, RN, FAAN


Am Nurs Today. 2017;12(10) 

In This Article

Abstract and Introduction


THE CENTRAL DOGMA of biology (deoxyribonucleic acid [DNA] to ribonucleic acid [RNA] to protein) was first described in 1957, before the current average-aged 50-year-old nurse was born. And it wasn't until 2008 that genetics was considered essential to nursing education, when most experienced nurses were already at least 45. In other words, many nurses have minimal genetics education and may not feel comfortable incorporating genetics assessment and implications into a patient care plan.

Since 2003, when human genome sequencing was completed, much genetic information and technology has been introduced into healthcare, requiring nurses to understand and translate these concepts to patients. However, without a strong foundation in genetic facts, how do nurses know what's important? How do we identify the red flags of inherited diseases, use a family assessment to recognize risk factors, develop a plan of care to educate patients, and ensure proper diagnosis?

This article explains basic genetic terminology and processes and describes assessment steps to help clinical nurses care for and manage patients at risk for inherited adult-onset diseases.