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How to Become a Genetics Nurse

Nurse in white coat works in a lab

A genetics nurse plays an important role in the lives of families that are either at risk for, or suffering from hereditary diseases such as cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, or cystic fibrosis. These nurses are the first point of contact for patients who are waiting to gain knowledge about their genetic makeup. In some cases, the risk assessments that a genetics nurse provides can save lives.

When determining how to become a genetics nurse, you should be aware that education is a  priority. Having a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) is essential to obtaining a role in the genetics nursing field. Strong research and communication skills are helpful as well.

What Does a Genetics Nurse Do?

A genetics nurse provides direct care to patients who are dealing with diseases that have a genetic component. They can analyze test results to determine the risks for conditions such as heart disease, Down syndrome, or sickle cell anemia. A genetics nurse also consults with patients, providing guidance and information about better managing their conditions.

Steps to Becoming a Genetics Nurse

Becoming a genetics nurse requires several steps, such as earning a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), passing the NCLEX-RN exam, and completing on-the-job training. Some genetic nurses also decide to earn a master of science in nursing (MSN) or an Advanced Genetics Nursing Certification (AGN-BC), which may lead to higher-level positions in the field.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

You’ll need a bachelor of science in nursing to become a genetics nurse The BSN curriculum teaches skills such as nursing research, family assessment, individual assessment, nursing informatics, and more. While a BSN is not required to become an RN, it is required to become a genetics nurse. The genetics nursing role is an advanced field of nursing, where more clinical work and deep genetic analysis is performed.

Step 2: Meeting License Requirements to Become a Genetics Nurse

An RN license is required to become a genetics nurse. Many genetics nurses become registered nurses before receiving their BSN, because they can become a registered nurse by only having an associate’s degree.

However, if you are starting from the beginning and know that you want to become a genetics nurse, receiving your bachelor’s degree will be the first step. Then, you’ll need to pass the NCLEX-RN exam to receive your RN license.

Step 3: Complete On-the-Job Training to Become a Genetics Nurse

As in many professions, on-the-job training is a requirement for becoming a genetics nurse. New graduates often seek out jobs at genetics clinics, cancer centers, or hospitals to gain experience in the field. Many nurses will start out as registered nurses to gain basic experience before moving into more specialized genetic research.

Step 4: Advanced Experience as a Genetics Nurse

While a master’s degree is not required to become a genetics nurse, a master of science in nursing can be helpful when trying to obtain higher-level positions. Many genetics nurses also choose to obtain the AGN-BC certification, which demonstrates advanced knowledge in the field. The Advanced Genetics Nursing Certification can be obtained when a nurse has five years of experience, has logged 50 cases, and has completed 45 hours of continuing education in genetics.

Genetics Nurse Salaries

The median annual salary for a genetics nurse is $62,450. Genetics nurses with ample job experience and graduate degrees, however, can be paid upward of $92,240 per year. The opportunity for advancement within this field is high, which means the salary range can vary tremendously by hospital, clinic, and experience level.

Future Growth

Genetics nurses are expected to be in high demand as research continues to grow and the nation’s population continues to age. While the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not keep data on the future growth of such a specialized job field, we know the impact of genetics-focused nursing expertise is likely to expand. One of the main duties of genetics nurses is to conduct assessments regarding the potential risk of genetic malformation in patients. These assessments are highly valued and in high demand, because the sooner a gene component is targeted, the greater the possibility of managing or preventing hereditary disease.

One of the latest advancements in the world of genetics is in testing for the BRCA1 and BRCA2 gene. Having a mutation of these genes increases a person’s risk for having breast cancer from approximately 47 percent to 57 percent. Genetics nurses help test patients for this gene, so the best steps can be determined to prevent the cancer before it occurs. This genetic testing can save lives.

Start Your Journey to Becoming a Genetics Nurse Today

Healthcare is one of the most important industries in the world, and the people who work in the profession are well respected. Not many people have the knowledge, training, or capability to do such complex research, and to compellingly communicate this research to the general population.

In general, it takes a special type of person to work in the field of nursing, where long hours are required, high levels of intelligence are needed, and strong people skills are essential. While the job is demanding, becoming a genetics nurse can be a very rewarding career. Families and individuals rely on genetics nurses to deliver life-changing information and support them through their medical journey.

The first step in becoming a genetics nurse, and experiencing the reward of helping others, is to obtain the proper education. Maryville University offers an online RN to BSN program, which is an excellent choice for registered nurses who wish to receive their bachelor of science in nursing online. Whether you’re a registered nurse or just beginning your nursing career, take the next step in your education today and get closer to your career goals.

 

Sources:

International Society of Nurses In Genetics, “What Is a Genetics Nurse?”