Our genetic makeup is a strong determining factor in how our bodies and minds are formed. It is responsible for the color of our hair, eyes, and skin for instance. To some degree, it may also responsible for our intelligence level and our personality. Studies have also shown that many of today’s diseases may be caused by genetics as well. These are often referred to as genetic diseases or hereditary diseases.

Today, genetics has become a wildly popular field, and the number of positions in this field has grown at an exponential rate and continues to grow. As a genetics nurse, you will be able to be part of an exclusive team of medical professionals working to treat and prevent genetic diseases and abnormalities.

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What is a Genetics Nurse?
What do Genetics Nurses Do?
Where do Genetics Nurses Work?
How do I Become a Genetics Nurse?

What is a Genetics Nurse?

A genetics nurse is a nursing professional that specializes in the field of genetics. These nurses care for individuals that are suffering from or may be at risk of developing a genetic disorder or disease.

Genetics nurses work with all different types of patients. For instance, they may work with women who are looking to get pregnant or are already pregnant, for instance. In these cases, a genetics nurse may work with the women to determine if their new babies are at risk of developing any genetic disorders.

Some genetics nurses might also specialize in research. This often involves pinpointing possible risk factors of developing a particular genetic disease. For example, some disorders and diseases are caused by the mutation of a specific gene.

There are a few different types of genetic problems that you will become familiar with should you become a genetics nurse. Some genetic problems may be caused by missing, extra, or abnormal chromosomes, for instance. A person may also be at risk of developing a particular disease if he or she inherited a certain gene from one of his or her parents. Some common genetic disorders include Down’s syndrome, color blindness, haemophilia, sickle-cell disease, cystic fibrosis, and Tay–Sachs disease.

In order to become a good genetics nurse, you will need to be able to understand complicated scientific information. You will also need to be able to relay that information in layman’s terms to your patients, so excellent communication skills are a must. Since there are new developments in genetics every day, you should also be prepared to keep abreast of current events in this field by reading medical journals and attending workshops and seminars.

What do Genetics Nurses Do?

Genetics nurses work with individuals that are at risk of developing or already suffering from genetic disorders and diseases. These nurses may perform genetics screenings, treat symptoms associated with these diseases, and help individuals and their loved ones deal with these diseases.

Genetic screenings typically involve collecting a great deal of information from patients. Genetic nurses will often be responsible for collecting information such as a patient’s detailed medical history as well as medical histories for the patient’s family members. Other genetic screening procedures may involve collecting blood samples for analysis and studying internal images, such as ultrasounds or x-rays.

Some genetics nurses may specialize in prenatal genetics. These nurses perform fetal screenings for genetic disorders and birth defects. They may also advise parents on how to lower the risk of their child developing a genetic disorder.

Patients with genetic disorders and their loved ones will often experience feelings of anxiety, fear, uncertainty, and sadness upon diagnosis. Genetics nurses work with patients and loved ones to educate them on their disorders and inform them of different treatment options available as well as how to live with their disorders.

Genetics nurses that work in research laboratories generally have very little one-on-one contact with patients outside of a research setting. Instead, these genetics nurses study genetic diseases. They work hard to identify risk factors, pinpoint the causes, and develop treatments and cures for genetic disorders and diseases.

Where do Genetics Nurses Work?

Genetics nurses work in hospitals, clinics, and ambulatory care settings. This may include cancer centers, pediatricians’ offices, prenatal care centers, long-term care centers, and other specialty medical facilities. Genetics nurses interested in research can often find employment in research centers and universities.

How do I Become a Genetics Nurse?

Genetics nurses generally start out by becoming registered nurses (RN). To do this, you will need to earn a bachelor’s of nursing degree and pass the National Licensing Examination for Registered Nurses (NLEX-RN).

Below is the common educational path for a Genetics Nurse (lowest to highest level of education)

Educational TrackSchool ProgramsAverage Education LengthChoosing Online or Campus
Earn a Bachelors DegreeView Programs4 Years Online or Campus
Earn a MSN DegreeView Programs2 Additional YearsOnline or Campus
Earn a PHD or DNPView Programs2-4 Additional YearsOnline or Campus

You can obtain your genetics nurse credentials through the Genetic Nursing Credentialing Commission (GNCC). To sit for the credentialing examination, you must have at least five years of verifiable experience as a clinical genetics nurse. You must have also logged 50 cases and completed at least 45 hours of continuing education in genetics.

Additional Genetic Nurse Resources

  1. International Society of Genetic Nurses
  2. Essentials of Genome and Genetic Nursing
  3. Evaluation of Genetic Applications Practice and Preventions
  4. For a list of Genetic Resources