What is a Genetics Nurse?
Genetics nurses specialize in caring for patients who suffer from a genetic disease, like cancer, diabetes or Alzheimer's disease, or are at risk for one. They follow the same general education and training path as other registered nurses (RNs) but complete additional classes and experiences related to genetics.
Like other RNs, genetics nurses take patients' medical histories, create care plans and provide direct patient care, including administering treatments and medications. They also look for risk factors and signs of genetic conditions and educate patients and patients' family members about genetic diseases.
Nurse practitioners (NPs) who specialize in genetics typically have more advanced duties, which might include diagnosing medical conditions and prescribing treatments. Genetics NPs also might conduct research and publish their findings.
|Education Requirements||Minimum of a bachelor's degree in nursing for registered nurses; minimum of a master's degree for nurse practitioners|
|Job Skills||Written and verbal communications, patience, compassion|
|Median Salary (2016)*||$68,450 (for registered nurses), $107,460 (for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners)|
|Job Outlook (2016-2026)*||15% (for registered nurses), 31% (for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners)|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
While individuals might find work as a registered nurse with only a diploma or associate's degree in nursing, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that some employers, particularly hospitals, seek candidates with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Likewise, while a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) might be sufficient for a nurse practitioner position, NPs might find better job prospects with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a Ph.D. in Nursing. Individuals who want to specialize in genetics nursing might opt for a program with a minor in genetic nursing or pursue a fellowship or graduate certificate program in the field.
After completing their education through an approved nursing program, registered nurses must become licensed in their state. This involves passing the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) and meeting any other state-specific requirements. Some states also require registration for nurse practitioners. In addition to being an RN, NPs must complete graduate school and pass a national certification exam.
Genetic nurses must have strong written and verbal communication skills to communicate with both patients and other healthcare workers. They must be understanding with patients and families who are learning about conditions that might be unfamiliar to them. Similarly, genetics nurses must display compassion since these patients and families are dealing with potentially life-changing, or even fatal, conditions.
Career Outlook and Salary
The BLS projected that employment of registered nurses would grow at a faster-than-average rate of 15% between 2016 and 2026. The bureau noted that growth should be particularly good at facilities that treat Alzheimer's patients and outpatient care centers where patients receive chemotherapy; these are both settings that might employ genetics nurses. Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners were expected to experience even greater job growth, at a rate of 31% from 2016 to 2026.
The BLS also reported that registered nurses made a median annual salary of $68,450 as of 2016, while nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners earned a median salary of $107,460 that year.
Individuals interested in nursing and/or genetics also might want to learn more about the following careers: