How to Become a Genetics Nurse

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Genetics is an important part of the medical field that deals with heredity and the inheritance of traits and certain conditions and diseases. Genetics nurses are specially trained registered nurses that provide testing and care to patients at risk for genetic conditions.

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Hey, I'm Joshua T. Osborne

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What does a genetics nurse do?

Genetics nurses perform early detection screenings for patients who are at risk for certain genetic conditions. They obtain a thorough family and medical history and provide advice on preventative efforts to people who are at risk for genetic diseases and disorders. They provide genetic information to patients and families, interpret laboratory data and genetics tests, and provide treatment and counseling to patients diagnosed with genetic disorders such as Huntington’s disease, Down Syndrome, and Cystic Fibrosis. Some genetics nurses work in genome research laboratories to assist with developing cures and additional treatments for genetic conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and diabetes.

What kind of training does a genetics nurse need?

Genetics nurses must become registered nurses by completing a diploma, associate degree, or bachelor degree program in nursing. Many employers prefer candidates with at least a master degree in genetics nursing. Prospective genetics nurses must have a solid understanding of healthcare issues related to genetics. All registered nurses must become licensed by passing the National Council Licensure Examination-Registered Nurse (NCLEX-RN). Most genetics nurses gain the professional Genetics Clinical Nurse certification from the Genetic Nursing Credentialing Commission (GNCC). Certification requirements include at least a bachelor degree, current RN license, and at least 5 years clinical experience in genetics. Genetics nurses must complete regular continuing education to maintain their licenses and certifications. Many employers provide courses, workshops, and seminars.

What are the prospects for a career as a genetics nurse?

Employment of all registered nurses is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 23% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The growing and aging population and increased demand for genetic testing will drive job growth of genetics nurses.

Job prospects are expected to be excellent especially for genetics nurses with at least a master degree and extensive experience. Numerous job openings will arise from the need to replace genetics nurses that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do genetics nurses make?

As of December 2009, the average annual salary for genetics nurses is $46,000; average annual genetics nurse salaries vary greatly on location, employer, education, experience, and benefits (2).

A career as a genetics nurse is a great choice for people with a strong interest in genetics and providing care to a variety of patients. Genetics nurses must have a solid understanding of how genetics contributes to certain conditions. Patience, compassion, determination, detail orientation, and motivation are essential characteristics. Genetics nurses must have excellent bedside manner and ability to help patients feel at ease. They must have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and the ability to work as part of a team.

Joshua T Osborne

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