Basic Genetics and Genomics: A Primer for Nurses

Dale Halsey Lea, MPH, RN, CGC, FAAN



The completion of the Human Genome Project is leading to a new type of medicine, called personalized medicine. The goal of personalized medicine is to create a healthcare plan that encompasses not only traditional factors, such as patient preferences and cholesterol levels, but also a person's genetic and genomic information. This approach should allow providers to prescribe more specific and individualized treatment and to avoid adverse drug and treatment reactions. A basic knowledge of genetic terms and concepts and an understanding of genomics can provide nurses with a foundation that will enable them to provide competent, personalized healthcare. This article will review the basic genetic structures and functions, explain cellular and genetic changes, discuss genetic inheritance, describe chromosomal variations, and share applications of genetics and genomics for nursing practice. 

Purpose/Goal: To introduce nurses at all levels of practice to basic genetic and genomic terms and functions, their roles in health and disease, and their applications to nursing practice.


1. Describe the basic genetic structures and functions.
2. Explain cellular and genetic changes.
3. Outline the patterns of genetic inheritance.
4. Describe chromosomal variations.
5. Identify the applications of genetics and genomics for nursing practice.


Dale Halsey Lea, MPH, RN, CGC, FAAN, is a registered nurse and a board certified genetic counselor with more than 20 years experience in clinical and educational genetics. She is currently the Health Educator with the Education and Community Involvement Branch and the Genomic Healthcare Branch, National Human Genome Research Institute. As Health Educator, Ms. Lea develops consumer and health professional genetics and genomics health education and community involvement programs and resources; translates genetic and genomic research results into terms understandable by lay audiences; conducts genetics research for the Education and Community Involvement Branch; and provides administrative support for public and health professional education and community involvement programs. Ms. Lea is widely published in the nursing and genetics/genomics literature in the area of integrating genetics into nursing practice. In 2001, Ms. Lea was inducted as a new Fellow in the American Academy of Nursing, and serves on their Expert Panel on Genetics.

The planners and author of this CNE activity have disclosed no relevant financial relationships with any commercial companies pertaining to this activity.

Contact Hours: 2.04

Expiration Date: 12/1/2012


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