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What Skills does a Genetics Nurse Need?

Career News October 27, 2013

A genetics nurse is a healthcare professional who specializes in genetic disorders and identifying the risk factors for genetic conditions. The skill that the nurse needs exceeds the general educational requirements of a registered nurse and has specialized knowledge that provides the opportunity to work with patients who have genetic disorders. Recognizing the responsibilities and skills that are required can help determine if the career is appropriate for personal goals or interests.

General Nursing Skills

Although the skills of a genetics nurse include specialized responsibilities, the nurse is still expected to know general nursing skills. According to the University of Mary, a genetics nurse must know the basics of giving patient’s medications, managing plans for patient care, providing general education related to a patient’s healthcare needs and obtaining medical history information.

A genetics nurse will still perform normal activities within the doctor’s office. Although the specialized skills set the nurse apart from other registered nurses, a large portion of the job skills and responsibilities relate to managing the needs of a patient. Nurses are the first point of contact to help patients settle down and obtaining information that provides better care. Although the general nursing skills make up a relatively small portion of the job duties when compared to other skills, it is still an important part of providing quality healthcare to patients.

Caring for Patients with Genetic Disorders

Although the general skills associated with the specialized field of study are an important part of the career, the skills related to caring for patients sets the nurse apart from other professionals in the healthcare industry. According to, a genetics nurse is responsible for patients who have a genetic disorder or who are at risk of developing a disorder.

The appropriate care the nurse provides will vary based on the genetic condition and the symptoms that arise. Regardless of the condition, the nurse is expected to provide treatment that helps manage symptoms of the condition and provide education to the family for better care outside the doctor’s office. Helping patients manage the genetic condition is one of the primary responsibilities and skills that the nurse must obtain before working in the specialized field.

Screening for Conditions

While treating a genetic condition is part of the job, genetics nurses are also responsible to run screening tests that identify the health concerns or the disorder. Genetic screening requires different tests based on the symptoms that are displayed and the risk factors that come from family history information.

According to, the genetics nurse can run a variety of screening procedures. Nurses might take blood samples to send out for tests, take x-rays of certain areas of the body or find out the details of family history to determine potential genetic conditions. By obtaining more information about the patient, nurses are able to identify potential genetic conditions that might cause health problems.

Preparing Parents during Prenatal Care

Identifying a condition before the birth of a child is sometimes the responsibility of a genetics nurse. According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, malformations during pregnancy are one of the leading causes of death among infants within the United States. Genetics nurses are often called upon when prenatal screening shows abnormalities and specialized care is needed for the unborn child.

The nurses help parents get through the pregnancy and provide appropriate care after the child is born. They are also expected to help parents manage the needs of the child or provide emotional support if the abnormality causes an infant death.

Laboratory Skills

Although many genetics nurses will work directly with the patient or their families, some nurses also work in laboratory settings. According to, nurses in the laboratory need research and observation skills. The nurses research different genetic conditions and work to find better screening procedures to help catch genetic conditions early and provide better treatment for the patient.

The human genome is complicated and caring for patients with abnormalities in their genetic code. It is challenging, but nurses who specialize in genetics have the skills to provide appropriate care and treatment for conditions that might arise. Although the skills range from general nursing to research, the specialized field of study provides the opportunity to help families and patients manage their health.

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