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Report Urges UK to Prepare Nurses and Midwives for Genetics

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Nurses and midwives in the UK need to be prepared to begin handling more genetic information about patients, and steps need to be taken to enable them to handle the enhanced role genetics will play in future clinical practice, according to a new UK report.

Because nurses and midwives are at the front lines of medical care and because they represent the largest sector of the National Health Service's professional workforce, this group – nearly 400,000 of them in the UK – will need to be able to provide care that involves genetics and genomic medicine.

Conducted by a task group for the Department of Health's Nursing and Midwifery Professional Advisory Board, the report urges steps to ensure that genetics and genomics receive more attention from nursing and midwifery leaders, and that education, research, and professional development efforts are pursued.

The task group conducted interviews and surveyed earlier literature and found that genetics and genomics technologies are advancing rapidly and across healthcare services, that there is an increasing range of genetic tests, and that such tests are moving outside of specialty services.

The group also found that the capacity to use genetic tests to diagnose "is currently outstripping our ability to interpret and treat," that demand and expectations for genetics services is increasing, and that private sector and direct-to-consumer testing also are on the rise.

The group advises NHS to identify leaders that will be responsible for improving genetic/genomic education and practice, and for developing a UK-wide implementation strategy that engages cross-sector stakeholders, and to ensure that leaders with expertise in genetics and genomics have an equal voice at strategic policy-making levels.

A new commissioning agenda should give specific consideration to genetics/genomics that goes beyond specialist services and that emphasizes patients' and families' experiences, and new commissioning arrangements for education should explicitly consider genetics and genomics, the authors recommend.

The Nursing and Midwifery Council's (NMC) standards should be expanded to integrate genetics/genomics across all areas of their training programs, and it should consider providing explicit guidance related to genetics/genomics on curricula, the NMC report advises. It also recommends that resources be committed to research how to translate scientific advances into nursing and midwifery practices, and to establish an evidence base on the outcomes of genetic and genomic care delivered by nurses and midwives.

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