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Genetics Nurse: Education and Career Information

Have the sciences and genetics always fascinated you? Are you a compassionate and caring person who wants a career as a nurse? You may be a perfect candidate to become a genetics nurse. This is a specialized position that focuses on caring for patients who are at risk for genetic-based diseases. A very rewarding and lucrative position, you can make a difference by helping families prepare themselves for what may occur or what is already going on through effective care.

What does a Genetics Nurse do?

A genetics nurse is a licensed registered nurse that is specially trained in genetics. This role assists individuals who are at risk for common diseases that have a genetic component, such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, and Alzheimer’s disease. They have a number of tasks to complete, including analyzing the genetic contributions of who is at risk for the disease, performing risk assessments, discussing the impact on the management of the patient’s care, providing education, research and nursing care.

They work with patients who may already be suffering from genetic diseases. They can specialize in genetics for pediatrics or adults. These nurses also take detailed medical histories, administer treatments and conditions, interpret laboratory data, coordinate healthcare needs, and create patient care plans. Advanced practice nurses in genetics have a larger role, including receiving referrals from other healthcare teams and providing genetic counseling. They have a role of leadership in the community and write articles for the public on genetics and care.

There are certain genetic nurses that only work in research laboratories, and do not have contact with patients unless they are conducting research. They help to identify risk factors, pinpoint causes and work to develop treatments and cures for genetic diseases and disorders. You will find these nurses in prenatal centers, cancer centers, school health clinics, ambulatory care settings, research centers, specialty clinics, pediatric clinics, universities and other medical facilities.

How much does a genetics nurse earn?

On average, a starting genetics nurse earns $43,410, but he or she does have the potential to make up to $92,240 per year. The median salary is about $62,450 per year. This number increases with education, experience and location. The addition of specialized certifications further increases the earning potential, roles and responsibilities. The demand for nurses in specialized areas continues to grow.

What types of skills are needed to become a genetics nurse?

There are a number of skills needed to be successful as a genetics nurse:

Communication: Communication is one of the top skills needed to be productive and effective in this role. This position requires a high degree of communication to patients, their families, healthcare professionals and the community-at-large. The nurse must be able to speak clearly, and write clearly to properly disseminate information that the outside world can comprehend.

Research: This is a research-intensive role. The genetics nurse must be able to understand and absorb huge quantities of information in order to work effectively with healthcare professionals, give their patients and their families correct information, and to stay current and abreast of new developments in the area.

Technology: This role must know how to use technology on every level. They must be adept at learning new machinery, must be able to use the machines their patients are using, and how to use computers and software that is used throughout the facility to ensure they are logging correct information.

Supervision: The genetics nurse must be able to supervise a number of people and projects at one time. They must have a strong attention to detail, and can use sound judgment on every level.

Administrative: This role has a number of administrative requirements. They must be able to keep track of patient records, their own writings, working with the community, scheduling appointments, and conducting training with patients, medical professionals and their families.

Internship Requirements

Every program has certain clinical internship requirements that must be completed. In addition to the formal education requirements, clinical experience is needed. Education and training throughout their career is also required in the form of continuing education credits.

Education Requirements

In order to become a genetics nurse, the student must first enter into a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. This is a four-year program. Once the initial program is completed, the student must pass the NCLEX-RN exam to show proficiency in the knowledge and technical skills required to perform the job. Once the nurse obtains their license, they must pursue work in this area.

Most nurses go on to get their master’s degree, which is an additional two years of educational requirements. During this time, the nurse should be gaining experience in genetics to become qualified to sit for the Genetic Nursing Credentialing Commission (GNCC). To sit for this exam, the nurse must have five years of verifiable experience as a clinical genetics nurse, with 50 cases logged and completion of at least 45 hours of continuing education. Certifications must be renewed every couple of years to remain active.

For those genetics nurses that want to teach or achieve the advanced practice nursing designation, they may want to pursue a doctoral degree, which requires an additional two years of study. The advanced education of master’s and doctoral degrees opens up the doors to more opportunities, and a higher salary. Nurses with the experience and educational background become directors and perform in supervisory roles, serving as community and research liaisons.

This is a very rewarding career for those nurses who are interested in the world of genetics. There are many genetic problems and patients at risk who need caring and compassionate nurses who work hard to make a difference and help others understand genetic disorders. For someone who is fascinated with science and all that it offers, lending a hand as a genetics nurse will work for the betterment of the profession and help patients comprehend their conditions better.

Nursing Scholarships

American Assembly for Men in Nursing (AAMN) American Cancer Society Doctoral Degree Scholarships in Cancer Nursing Gallagher Student Health Careers Scholarship
The Gates Millenium Scholars (GMS) National Black Nurses Association (NBNA) National Student Nurses’ Association (NSNA)
New Careers in Nursing (NCIN) Nurse Corps Scholarship (NCS) Nurses of Tomorrow
Nursing Economics Foundation Tylenol Future Care Scholarship American Holistic Nurses Association
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