Background. Rapid advances in genetics following the sequencing of the human genome will progressively reach all aspects of health care. Developments in genetics will increasingly having a significant influence on the work of nurses, midwives and health visitors. Therefore, these practitioners need to understand the impact that genetics will have for their patients and should be able to incorporate this new knowledge into their clinical practice to ensure that they continue to offer holistic care and influence the strategic development of health care. An earlier survey of higher education institutions in the United Kingdom (UK) offering preregistration courses for nurses, midwives and health visitors showed that the teaching of genetics was very limited in most curricula.
Aim. To assess the provision of education on genetics for postregistration and postgraduate nurses, midwives and health visitors in the UK, as these practitioners are mostly likely to influence current health care provision and initiate changes in clinical practice.
Method. A total of 38 higher education institutions from 11 regions were surveyed via telephone or e-mail, using a semi-structured interview schedule.
Results. The findings showed that the inclusion of genetics in the curriculum was highly variable. A small number of institutions (n = 3) offered courses with whole modules on genetics, whereas 19 of the 38 responding did not include any genetics in their curriculum at a postregistration level.
Conclusion. The findings suggest that there is lack of recognition of the impact genetics is likely to have on health care. It is, therefore, recommended that the profile and relevance of genetics to nurses, midwives and health visitors should be promoted by the major organizations responsible for developing, commissioning and providing health care education.