Genetic nursing: Reflections on the 20th century

Gwen Anderson, Rita Black Monsen


Background: Nursing has a long tradition in caring for individuals, families, and communities who have or are at risk to diseases that are genetically mediated. A comprehensive review of genetic nursing literature is described in order to better understand priorities, gaps, and future directions. A comprehensive review of the genetic nursing literature in the 20th century is important because it reflects how nursing used borrowed knowledge from medicine and applied it to nursing practice. We propose that nursing developed practice based knowledge in the 20th century and this provides a valuable example of how our discipline incorporates new science and technology.

Objectives: This paper describes the results of a bibliometric study designed to analyze 1,067 publications collected between 1906 and 1999 that represent the vast majority of literature covering the field of genetic nursing. Our purpose is to provide an overall summary of where genetic nursing has come over 100 years and to make overall suggestions about future endeavors to advance genomic nursing competencies. Our intention is to describe the historical integration of genetic and genome science into nursing knowledge and application to nursing practice in the 20th century.

Methods: This study collates a wide variety of publications including qualitative and quantitative research, editorial or opinion papers, case reports, clinical updates, science application and utilization papers, concept analysis papers, and previous evidence-based reviews. Data abstracted from 1,067 publications reported in frequencies and percentages provides descriptive analysis of the evolution and translation of borrowed genetic and genomics science into practical knowledge for nursing.

Results: This study illustrates that nursing knowledge is generated not only by nursing research but also from application and synthesis of borrowed knowledge from molecular, cellular, biological, and medical sciences and technologies taught in genome science, clinical genetic medicine, and the discipline of genetic counseling. Nurse and non-nurse authors collaborate to contribute to the translation and transfer of genetic and genome science into nursing education, research and practice.

Conclusions: This study clearly illustrates that nursing developed practice-based knowledge adopted from the specialty of clinical genetic services and applied it to nursing practice. This historical review describes 100 years of genetic science in healthcare used by nurses to better care for patients and families. Nurses in the future will be challenged to develop educational curricula, strategies and tools to measure competency in genomic nursing. Future collaboration across disciplines and in the context of academic practice partnerships would greatly aid nurses’ efforts to translate genetic and genomic science into practice, education, research, and healthcare policy.

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Journal of Nursing Education and Practice

ISSN 1925-4040 (Print)   ISSN 1925-4059 (Online)

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