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Tackling the New Frontier of Genetics Nursing

January 7th, 2011

Though genetics nursing is not a new field by any means, it is one of the more overlooked nursing niches, especially in comparison to delivery room nursing, general practice nursing, and even emergency room nursing. This may be because genetics nurses work less on the forefront of patient action and more in behind-the-scenes research positions. Yet, the work of genetics nurses is incredibly crucial to developing better screening procedures for diseases as well as better methods of ensuring that organ transplants are successful.

A person's genetic history can tell a lot about him or her. The way their genes are laid out can shed insight into whether they are at risk of developing certain illnesses and also whether certain medical procedures will be successful or not. More carefully considering genetics can also decrease the likelihood of a patient's body rejecting valuable and scarce donor organs, which will not only save lives, but also medical resources and money. Medical professionals are beginning to realize the need for genetics knowledge and training, driving an increasing number of nursing programs to include genetics courses in their general nursing curricula, according to an article published in Nurse Week.

The boom of interest in genetics nursing rides on the coat tails of the Human Genome Project, which was a 13-year study helmed by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Institutes of Health. It was completed in 2003, and successfully mapped out approximately 20,000 to 25,000 genes in human DNA, according to the the U.S. Department of Energy. This data is now used by medical researchers, including genetics nurses, to create more personalized diagnostic procedures, more individualized treatments, and other more specialized ways of practicing medicine that will focus on the patient's unique genetic makeup rather than applying broad medicinal practices on every patient that walks through the door. This will decrease the chance of having patients undergo fruitless treatments and therapies and increase the chances of improving health with treatment the first time around.

All in all, genetics in nursing is going to become increasingly important as more research is conducted in the area and applied to medicine and health care. Even those who are not strict genetics nurses will need to keep up with new developments in genetics nursing if they wish to remain valuable and employable members of the nursing community.