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Oncology nurses play a large role in the field of genomics.

The subject of genetics and personalized medicine is near and dear to my heart, as I spent seven years of my professional career in the field. Many changes have occurred since the early 1990s, when the genetic revolution began.

August 1, 2008, marked the retirement of Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Human Genome Research Institute. Under Collins's leadership, the Human Genome Project was completed in April 2003, resulting in the complete sequencing of the human genome. Collins should be acknowledged for recognizing early on that this information would have significant ethical, legal, and social implications (ELSI). He ensured that as part of the project, funds were budgeted to address those concerns. Of note is nursing's contribution to ELSI investigations.

Oncology nurses are a pivotal link between research discoveries that affect cancer care and their successful adoption to optimize health. A number of ONS activities and initiatives help to illustrate nursing's role in helping patients and the public understand the broad implications of these discoveries.

ONS has a vibrant Cancer Genetics Special Interest Group (SIG) that serves as a resource for members. During the 33rd Annual Congress, the SIG presented a session on taking a family history. With the use of a pedigree and a few key questions, oncology nurses can link genetic advancements to patients and families who might benefit from them.

Consumers have expressed concern that genetic information might be used against them by health insurers and workplaces. Such fear has created obstacles to use of genetic services (i.e., genetic testing) and participation in clinical research. After many years of hard work, including advocacy efforts by many ONS members, the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA) was passed. GINA is a good first step to protecting consumers from genetic discrimination, but it will need to be improved upon for the future because not all areas are covered.

In 1996, the American Medical Association, the American Nurses Association, and the National Human Genome Institute established the National Coalition of Health Professional Education in Genetics (NCHPEG). This organization of organizations seeks to develop resources for health professionals. Patricia Kelly, RN, MS, AOCN[R], coeditor of the Cancer Genetics SIG Newsletter, represents ONS at NCHPEG.

In 2005, ONS endorsed the Essential Nursing Competencies for Genetics and Genomics ( geneticscompetency.pdf), which establishes the minimum competency expected of every nurse. Personalized health care requires that nurses be adequately prepared to assist consumers in the interpretation of very complex details that influence healthcare choices.

ONS continues to evaluate strategies to educate members about genomics and how to integrate the nursing competencies into its educational activities. Nurses can play a key role in the integration of genetic information into the lives of patients and families.

Online Resources for Genetics and Genomics

ONS Position on the Role of the Oncology Nurse in Cancer Genetic Counseling:

ONS Web Site Genetics Clinical and Patient Resource Areas:

CDC Public Health Genomics:


Genetics Home Reference:

International Society of Nurses in Genetics:

Physician Data Query[R] Cancer Information Summaries on Genetics:

National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics:

Nurses' Role in Pharmacogenetics and Pharmacogenomics:

Personalized Health Care Initiative:

Secretary's Advisory Committee on Genetics, Health, and Society Report: Realizing the Potential of Pharmacogenomics:

[By Paula T. Rieger, RN, MSN, AOCN[R], FAAN]
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Title Annotation:WORKING FOR YOU
Author:Rieger, Paula T.
Publication:ONS Connect
Article Type:Personal account
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Oct 1, 2008
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