Academic journal article Nursing and Health Care Perspectives

BRINGING GENETICS INTO THE CLASSROOM: A Practice-Based Approach

Academic journal article Nursing and Health Care Perspectives

BRINGING GENETICS INTO THE CLASSROOM: A Practice-Based Approach

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT Nurses must be prepared to identify and effectively respond to clients' genetic concerns and help them manage new genetic information. To do this, they need genetics education. This article describes an innovative, case-study-Based genetics educational curriculum developed to provide nurse educators with a practical approach to integrating genetics into nursing curricula. Two case studies are presented to illustrate baccalaureate and advanced practice nursing roles in providing genetic health care. Informed consent is used to illustrate how the materials can be incorporated into curricula.

The future of nurses in genetics is an imperative challenge and is there for the well-prepared nurse.... Experienced nurses are already preferred professional collaborators in genetic practice and are growing in demand (1, p. 89).

GENETICS, once thought of only in the context of rare diseases, is now recognized as an integral component of many common diseases. In the near future, genetic predisposition to cancer and heart disease may be identified at an early age, allowing for individualized prevention and management plans (2). Nurses must be prepared to identify and effectively respond to clients' genetic health concerns and help them manage new genetic information.

TO DO THIS, NURSES MUST HAVE THE NECESSARY GENETICS EDUCATION (3-7).

IN 1962, BRANTL AND ESSLINGER CALLED FOR NURSES TO INTEGRATE PRINCIPLES OF HUMAN GENETICS INTO NURSING EDUCATION (8). During the next two decades, a small group of nurses responded to this challenge by applying nursing skills to genetic counseling, developing genetic nurse specialists, developing graduate and continuing education programs in genetics, and establishing the International Society of Nurses in Genetics, Inc. (ISONG) (9-11). Despite their efforts and the growing awareness of the role of genetics in health and disease, genetic content is still not an integral part of basic or advanced nursing education.

In a review of nine surveys conducted by nurse educators, Anderson (12) noted the absence of genetics content in nursing curricula, the lack of nursing faculty prepared to teach genetics, and a shortage of educational materials reflecting nursing's contributions to the management of genetic health problems. More recently, a national survey to assess the type and amount of genetics content in basic nursing curricula revealed that nearly 40 percent of the programs failed to include such content, with faculty commenting that it is not essential or applicable to the program (5). In their report, Hetteberg and colleagues recommended making a course in human genetics a prerequisite for baccalaureate programs and integrating genetics content into human development, didactic, and clinical nursing courses. They also suggested that nurse educators use Internet courses and materials to provide current genetic information to students (5).

Monsen and colleagues (13) surveyed State Boards of Nursing (SBNs) to determine what SBNs require with respect to genetic content in nursing curricula, and looked at the extent to which current nursing textbooks contain genetic content. They found that only a handful of SBNs required genetics in prelicensure programs and that textbooks contained only a modicum of topics related to genetics.

Recently, major steps have been taken to promote the inclusion of genetic principles and content in nursing education and clinical practice. In 1998, the American Nurses Association published the Statement on the Scope and Standards of Genetics Clinical Nursing Practice (14), and the American Association of Colleges of Nursing revised its Essentials of Baccalaureate Education to include family and genetic risk assessment as a core competency (15). In addition, several federally funded genetics education programs for nursing faculty have been developed (16,17), and two genetics textbooks written for nurses have been published (18,19). …

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