Quick Facts :
Genetic Nurse


Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses, May 2017

info-icon ADN or BSN
info-icon $73,550 Annual Wage
info-icon 15% Job Growth


What Is a Genetics Nurse?

Our genetic makeup is a strong causal factor in how our physical and mental traits are formed. It is responsible for the color of our hair, eyes, and skin for instance. Some researchers believe genetics may also play a role in determining intelligence and aspects of our personality. Studies have also shown that many of today’s diseases may be inherited via genetics as well. These are often referred to as genetic diseases or hereditary diseases.

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

Genetics nurses work with a variety of patients and special population groups. For instance, they may work with women who are attempting to get pregnant or are already pregnant. 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, hemophilia, 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 Does a Genetics Nurse 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 the 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).

You can obtain Advanced Genetics Nursing Certification (AGN-BC) through the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC). 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 Resources for Genetic Nurses