A Framework for Integrating Genetics Into Nursing Practice
Nursing’s unique contribution to genomic medicine is its philosophy of holism. Nurses are ideally positioned to incorporate genetics into their assessments, planning, and interventions for patients at different ages and stages across the lifespan and in all settings. The holistic view that characterizes nursing takes into account each person’s intellectual, physical, spiritual, social, cultural, biopsychologic, ethical, and esthetic experiences while addressing genetics information, gene-based testing, diagnosis, and treatments. Thus, knowledge about genetics is basic to nursing practice (Lea, Anderson & Monsen, 1998).
A framework for integrating genetics into nursing practice in-cludes a philosophy of care that recognizes when genetics factors are playing a role or could play a role in an individual’s health. This means using family history and the results of genetics tests effectively, informing patients about genetics concepts, under-standing the personal and societal impact of genetics informa-tion, and valuing the privacy and confidentiality of genetics information.
A person’s response to genetics information, genetic testing, or conditions may be either disabling or empowering. Genetics in-formation may stigmatize individuals if it affects how they view themselves or how others view them. Nurses can help individu-als and families understand the genetic aspect of themselves and learn how genetic traits and conditions are passed on within fam-ilies and how genetic and environmental factors influence health and disease (Lea, Anderson & Monsen, 1998; Peters et al., 1999).
Nurses facilitate communication among family members, the health care system, and community resources; they offer valuable support by virtue of their continuity of care with patients and families. All nurses should be able to recognize when a client is asking a question related to genetics information and should know how to obtain genetics information by gathering family and health histories and conducting physical and developmental assessments. Being able to recognize a genetics concern allows the nurse to provide appropriate genetics resources and support to individuals and families (Lea, Jenkins & Francomano, 1998).
Key to nurses’ genetics framework is the awareness of one’s at-titudes, experience, and assumptions about genetics concepts and how these are manifested in one’s own practice. Chart 9-1 offers insights on how nurses can conduct periodic self-assessments.