NIH Establishes Educational Program on Genomics, Genetics for Oncology Nurses

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Oncology nurses should be familiar with risk assessments to facilitate the identification of patients with particular hereditary cancer syndromes.
Oncology nurses should be familiar with risk assessments to facilitate the identification of patients with particular hereditary cancer syndromes.

Most oncology nurses have received very little formal education/training on integrating genomic and genetic characteristics into patient assessment and education; however, diagnosis and treatment decisions are increasingly incorporating these factors. In this report published in Seminars in Oncology Nursing, researchers summarized the steps undertaken by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Clinical Center to create a genetics and genomics educational program for nurses.1

Important skills for oncology nurses include the ability to describe the genetics/genomics basis for certain biomarker-based treatments to patients and their caregivers, including being able to describe differences in germline and somatic (ie, tumor-related) molecular alterations. In addition, nurses need to be familiar with risk assessments to facilitate the identification of patients with particular hereditary cancer syndromes (eg, pathogenic BRCA1/2 alterations in hereditary breast and ovarian cancer).

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The NIH followed the Method for Introducing New Competencies (MINC) framework2 to develop and integrate genetics/genomics into oncology nursing practice. Steps in the process include the following:

1. Development of basic competencies and creation of introductory and intermediate genomics courses for oncology nurses

  • Involved adaptation of pre-existing genomics/genetics competency guidelines developed by the American Nursing Association,3 and included case studies

2. Design of oncology participant and facilitator guides

  • “Unit champions,” many of whom were clinical educators, were trained in small groups to facilitate integration of genetics/genomics into nursing practice

3. Utilization of a competency validation tool

  • Developed to assess nurse participant outcomes

“Future project directions include training clinical nurses to obtain family histories, entering pedigrees into the electronic medical record, identifying genetic red flags in research participants, and developing the content for an advanced oncology genomic course for nurses,” the authors stated.

References

1. Flynn S, Cusack G, Wallen GR. Integrating genomics into oncology practice [published online January 24, 2019]. Semin Oncol Nurs. doi: 10.1016/j.soncn.2018.12.005

2. Method for introducing a new competency: genomics (MINC).  https://genomicsintegration.net/index.php. Accessed February 12, 2019.

3. Essentials of Genetic and Genomic Nursing: Competencies, Curricula Guidelines, and Outcome Indicators. 2nd ed. Silver Spring, MD: American Nurses Association; 2009.  https://www.nursingworld.org/~4af0c1/globalassets/docs/ana/ethics/essentials-of-geneticgenomic-nursing-2009.pdf. Accessed February 12, 2019.

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