Applying Genomic Knowledge: What Do Nurses Need?

I’ve written a lot about how genomics touches on many different aspects of health. But who is actually going to administer the care? Ideally, genomics will be implemented across the entire care spectrum, in hospitals, health systems, and private practices. Doctors deal directly with patients, and thus are the ones handling the implementation of information revealed by genomics. But nurses play just as big a role, often being the individuals responsible for applying routine care. Nurses represent the largest contingent of care providers in the world. If genomics is ever to be considered routine, nurses must first become better educated in the practical use of genomic medicine.

A study in 2012 shows that while a majority of nurses consider genomics important to nursing (78% of survey respondents), 81% described their knowledge of common genetic diseases as poor to fair. What does this mean for genomics in practice? Translating genomic findings into clinical care not only relies on continuing technological advances, but on raising competency of nurses worldwide in the application of genomics to a point where nurses can confidently use their knowledge in practice. New Amsterdam Genomics believes both can be accomplished with one comprehensive tool.

Image courtesy of artur84 via freedigitalphotos.net.
Image courtesy of artur84 via freedigitalphotos.net.

Some efforts currently exist meant to educate nurses in clinical genomics. The American Nurses Association (ANA) publishes G2C2, an aggregate of free educational resources that apply directly to the field of nursing. This includes tools for educators and students alike, providing a structure in which learning can take place. Many of the lesson plans outline exactly how to use this knowledge in practice, like this lesson on building and understanding a family pedigree. But true mainstream use of clinical genomics requires more than just knowledge. Moving forward will require clinical tools specifically designed for use by nurses and doctors that allow them to quickly assess and utilize the vast amounts of impactful health information the genome provides.

Nurses are arguably the most important aspect of clinical care, as they make up a majority of care providers worldwide. Education and competency tests have always been a part of integrating new treatments, techniques, and care philosophies in nursing, and it’s happening with genomic medicine right now. But the industry needs more. A comprehensive point-of-care tool that sums up all this information, gives treatment guidelines, and provides sources for each finding, would go a long way in implementing genomic medicine into the mainstream.

-Josh

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