Genomics in Nursing and Healthcare

03 March 2020

Genomics – what do we need to know?

This was a question posed by Mark when he shared his personal experiences for Understanding Real Life Genetics project around the genetic condition that his wife and two children have.

He isn’t alone; the majority of nurses and other health professionals are in a similar position. As health services change to incorporate genomics, knowledge and understanding of why and where genomics is relevant to our everyday clinical practice will become increasingly important, so that our patients can benefit.

Genomics involves the study of the entirety of our genes– called the genome, coded for in DNA. Over recent years advances in technology have enabled researchers to analyse vast amounts of DNA-sequence data from more than hundreds of thousands of people to find variations in our genomes associated with health, disease or drug response. In humans that means searching through about ~ 3 billion letters of the DNA code across 23,000 genes in every person!

Genomics is now being incorporated into healthcare services across the world. Genomic information and technologies can be used to determine disease risk and predisposition, diagnosis and prognosis, and the selection and prioritisation of therapeutic options. In addition, genomics is also being used to identify and treat infectious disease and track outbreaks. Healthcare professionals and society at large will also have to take into account the potential ethical, psychological and social implications of genomic information and the application of genomic technologies.

As the largest profession in the global health workforce, nurses have an important role in bringing the benefits of genomics to patients. Despite this, genomics has not yet been systematically incorporated into nursing teaching curricula, and until recently there have been no significant changes in nursing practice that bring genomics into day-to-day health care. For this reason we have convened a conference to hear from nurses who are at the cutting- edge in terms of incorporating genomics into their clinical practice, to explore how all nurses and allied healthcare professionals can be part of this change in healthcare (view programme here) We aim to bring together nurses and educators interested in mainstreaming genomics in the areas of education, practice, policy, research and leadership.

If you are a practicing nurse, a nurse manager or a nurse educator working at a university and you want to find out more about genomics, how things are changing and how you can be part of that change, then come to Nursing, Genomics and Healthcare 27-29 April, at Wellcome Genome Campus, Cambridge, UK.

(Register by March 31st) – Special rates are available for trainee and academic nurses.

Author: Dr Emma Tonkin (Associate Professor), University of South Wales, UK 

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