The field of nursing provides an amazing array of specialties that allow you to research and find an area that is the right fit for you. Genetics nursing is an exciting and ever changing option that is worth learning about if you are either already working in nursing and are looking for a nursing specialty, or if you are just getting started on your nursing degree. There is a great deal of potential for nurses in genetics.
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Genetics nurses are registered nurses who work with patients who either have a hereditary based disease, or are possibly at risk for one and want to do genetic testing. Cancer, diabetes, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, heart disease, and even Alzheimer’s are just some of the many diseases that doctors and researchers now understand can have a genetic component. These nurses’ main duties include assessing patients’ risk factors, providing early detection screenings, and providing counseling or treatment plans for patients with genetic disorders. Conducting research is another large part of many genetics nurses’ job profiles. Genetics nurses can work in many different settings, including clinics, prenatal centers, oncology clinics, pediatric clinics, as well as in private or public research centers.
Getting started on your education is very important if you are interested in the genetics nursing specialty. Most genetics nurses have at least a master’s degree as well as Genetics Clinical Nurse (GCN) certification. Certification is not legally required but is greatly beneficial in helping you to land a job in this field. You will need to become a licensed nurse in your state, which involves earning a nursing degree and then passing your states NCLEX exam (National Council Licensure Examination), given by your state’s board of nursing. You can earn your nursing degree by earning an associate degree in nursing (ASN/ADN) in two to three years from a vocational or community college, or by earning your four-year bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). Once you earn your degree, you will need to pursue clinical nursing experience in the field of genetics, or pursue graduate education while also gaining experience in the field of genetics.
Becoming a certified genetics clinical nurse(GCN) involves first earning not only a nursing license, but also five full years of experience as a clinical genetics nurse. Certification is valid for five years before it must be renewed again. The Genetics Nursing Credentialing Commission (GNCC) is the organization responsible for overseeing the genetics clinical nurse certification process as well as maintaining a database of the certified Genetics Clinical Nurses. With a graduate degree in nursing (Master’s or Doctoral) and 300 hours in genetic nursing, you can become an advanced practice nurse in genetics (APNG)*.
Nursing shortages throughout the country are creating a demand for nurses in almost every specialty, and earning the education and certification required for specialties like genetics nursing can keep you in demand. Salary will vary but is generally over $50,000 a year for the genetics nursing specialty. This is an incredibly fascinating specialty that will continue to evolve and change as new research in genetics is conducted and more discoveries are made in the field of genetics. Your first step should be to complete your nursing degree, or if you are an experienced nurse, pursue your clinical experience in genetics and if interested in advanced practice nursing in genetics, the specialized graduate education that will help prepare you for certification as a GCN.
(Sources: International Society of Nurses in Genetics, *Genetic Nursing Credentialing Commission (GNCC), Bureau of Labor Statistics)