Genetics Nurses: What are they?

Susie is fond of analyzing things. She like details even the minute ones. She has this patience and determination inside her that makes her believe that even the smallest of things are significant in other things. She wants to find out how best to make use of this critical keenness in the nursing profession. She thinks quietly as she analyses the list of nursing specialties in front of her. Hmm, what should she choose? Which one would suit and caption her interest best. She scans through the list as she comes about Genetic Nursing.

Genetic Nursing. Sounds interesting, maybe she should give this a try. But she doesn’t know much about the field. What information should she seek about this field? Can this be the field for her?

Genetic Nursing: An overview

Genetics nurses are those licensed health care professionals specially trained and educated in genetics and genetic health care. Basically, they help people at risk for or affected by diseases with a genetic component achieve and maintain health. Genetics nursing is now slowly emerging as common diseases are now known to have a genetic component such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and Alzheimers

Usually, their roles and responsibilities include performing risk assessment, analyzing the genetic contribution to disease risk, as well as discussing the impact of risk on health care management for individuals and families and providing nursing care for patients and families at risk for or affected by diseases with a genetic component.

For assessment, they may obtain a detailed family history and construct a pedigree like a family history diagram, assess and analyze hereditary and nonhereditary disease risk factors, and identify potential genetic conditions or genetic predisposition to disease.

Also, they may provide genetics education, psychosocial support and nursing care to patients and families and conduct research in genetics.

Patients in this field often include those individuals and families with known hereditary conditions or diseases thought to have a hereditary component (from infants to elders), like for example, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, cystic fibrosis, diabetes, Down syndrome, hemophilia, Huntington’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Sickle Cell disease. Anyone who is considering genetic testing, individuals and couples who are concerned with issues related to pregnancy (birth defects, transmission of genetic conditions, or effect of pregnancy on existing genetic risk) may also fall under the care of genetics nurses and as well as  couples who have had multiple miscarriages, couples who are related (first cousins) and healthcare providers who seek genetics consultations for their patients.

How to become one

So, now you are intrigued and want to become part of the team. Here’s how.

First you need to enrol yourself and graduate from an Associate of Science in Nursing (ASN) or Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). And after you have gained basic nursing knowledge, you must take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) to prove so. After which, you may then work as a Registered Nurse and gain as much clinical experience as you can. You will need fat least five years of clinical experience in genetics nursing. After that, you must proceed to getting your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) from an accredited program ad pass the Genetics Clinical Nurse (GCN) certification exam in order for you to become a Genetics Clinical Nurse (GCN).

Then you go back to school again to take a degree in Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from an accredited graduate program. 300 hours of Genetic Practicum experiences as a Clinical Genetics Nurse (CGN) may then be needed before you take and pass the Advanced Practice Nurse in Genetics (APNG) exam. After you have accomplished all of those step-by-step, you may then finally be an Advanced Practice Nurse in Genetics (APNG).

Work Setting

Genetics nurses usually work in varied settings with patients and their families. They may offer their services in specialty clinics where gene-based diagnoses and therapies are offered, prenatal and reproductive technology centers, cancer centers, primary health care settings, pediatric clinics, industrial health, school health, research centers, biotech and insurance industries. So, when you decide you want to enter this field, there are a lot of work settings to choose from.



Liane Clores, RN MAN

Currently an Intensive Care Unit nurse, pursuing a degree in Master of Arts in Nursing Major in Nursing Service Administration. Has been a contributor of Student Nurses Quarterly, Vox Populi, The Hillside Echo and the Voice of Nightingale publications. Other experience include: Medical-Surgical, Pediatric, Obstetric, Emergency and Recovery Room Nursing.

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