• competence;
  • family history;
  • genetics;
  • genomics;
  • literature review;
  • nursing;
  • systematic review

skirton h., o’connor a. & humphreys a. (2012) Nurses’ competence in genetics: a mixed method systematic review. Journal of Advanced Nursing68(11), 2387–2398.


Aim.  To ascertain the extent to which nurses are achieving the core competences in genetics appropriate for nursing practice.

Background.  There is an increasing focus on genetics in nursing, and relevant core competences have been developed. However, it is unclear whether nurses are achieving these competences.

Data sources.  Four databases (CINAHL, Medline, The Allied and Complementary Medicine Database, and British Nursing Index) were searched. Hand searching of relevant reference lists and author names was also conducted.

Design. Systematic review.

Review methods.  The systematic review was undertaken using methods described by the Centre for Reviews and Dissemination (University of York, 2008). Research studies published in English between January 2000–January 2011 reporting data focussing on nurse competence in genetics were eligible for inclusion. Data were abstracted for inclusion in a table and subjected to thematic analysis: due to diversity of studies, a meta-analysis was not performed.

Results.  Of 269 papers retrieved, 13 were eligible for inclusion. There were five main themes: knowledge, experience in using skills, ethical practice, perceived relevance, and confidence. Although the majority of participants believed genetics was relevant to their role, their knowledge of genetic concepts was generally poor; however, most studies measured self-reported knowledge rather than assessing actual knowledge.

Conclusions.  There is little evidence on this topic, but it does appear from the available evidence that nurses are not demonstrating the competences needed to offer holistic health care to people with genetic conditions. Pre- and postregistration programmes must be enhanced to include genetic health care.