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Describe the difference between genetics and genomics and explain why each is important in nursing practice.
Genetics versus Genomics in Nursing Practice
Genetics and genomics are closely related fields that are increasingly important for nursing. While genetics refers to the study of individual genes and their functions, genomics examines the complete set of genetic material within an organism or species (Collins & Varmus, 2015). Both have significant implications for disease risk assessment, diagnosis, and treatment selection in nursing care.
Genetics focuses on how single genes influence health or disease. It seeks to determine how variations in DNA sequence are associated with specific phenotypes or traits (National Human Genome Research Institute [NHGRI], 2022). For example, genetic testing can identify mutations that elevate cancer risk or cause rare disorders. Nurses apply this knowledge by educating patients about hereditary conditions, facilitating genetic counseling and screening, and tailoring plans of care based on genetic profiles (American Nurses Association [ANA], 2017).
In contrast, genomics takes a broader view by analyzing how all genes and their proteins interact as whole networks and pathways (Collins & Varmus, 2015). It reveals how multiple genetic and environmental factors combine to impact health over time (NHGRI, 2022). For instance, genomics research uncovered that most common diseases result from complex interactions between many genes and lifestyle influences rather than single mutations (Collins & Varmus, 2015). Nurses apply genomic insights by recognizing disease etiology is multifaceted, embracing holistic, preventive approaches, and considering genetic predispositions within each patient’s full context (ANA, 2017).
As genomic technologies advance, the ability to sequence entire genomes cost-effectively is revolutionizing healthcare (Collins & Varmus, 2015). Nurses will increasingly use genomic data alongside clinical, family, and social information to deliver truly personalized care tailored for each individual (ANA, 2017). While genetics provides important foundational knowledge, genomics offers an even more comprehensive understanding of health with broader applications and implications for nursing practice.
American Nurses Association. (2017). Nursing’s role in precision care. https://www.nursingworld.org/practice-policy/workforce/health-care-delivery-models/precision-care/ essay writing service.
Collins, F. S., & Varmus, H. (2015). A new initiative on precision medicine. New England Journal of Medicine, 372(9), 793–795. https://doi.org/10.1056/NEJMp1500523
National Human Genome Research Institute. (2022, January 18). Genetics vs. genomics. https://www.genome.gov/about-genomics/fact-sheets/Genetics-vs-Genomics