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New certification focuses on genetics nursing

Feb. 5, 2015, 9:21 AM

A nurse practitioner at the Vanderbilt Hereditary Cancer clinic is expected to be one of the first nurses in the country to receive a newly created certification in Advanced Genetics Nursing from the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC).

Kate McReynolds, APRN, M.Sc., MSN, helped the ANCC develop the guidelines and scope for the Advanced Genetics Nursing-Board Certified (AGN-BC) credential, and expects to receive her own AGN-BC during the first half of the year. The credential itself was created in December.

Kate McReynolds, APRN, M.Sc., MSN

“There are exceptional nurse practitioners that consistently go above and beyond to increase their knowledge, expertise and skill in advancing patient care,” said April Kapu, DNP, R.N., associate nursing officer and advance practice director at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

“Kate’s commitment to excellence in her practice and personalized medicine is a great example. Her efforts with this certification will have far-reaching effects in the field of genetics nursing.”

As the field is emerging, there are few genetic nurses. The certification aims to attract more nurses into genetics.

“Board certification matters,” McReynolds said. “When a member of the public requests a board-certified physician, they know that the physician has a proven level of expertise in a given specialty area. The same is true for board-certified nurses, including genetic nurses.

“This national credential provides validation that the nurse is qualified to provide genomic-based health care. This portfolio certification allows the nurse to establish competence in genomics by demonstrating that they have completed advanced academic and clinical preparation within this specialty.”

In her role as a genetic nurse, McReynolds reviews patients’ personal and family histories, orders genetic testing to determine their risks for certain cancers, and manages patients for their elevated risk for cancer. Patients at the Hereditary Cancer Clinic are people with cancer or who have a strong family history of cancer who want to determine their risks.

McReynolds looks at three to five generations of family history to determine whether a pattern of particular cancers exists. That helps inform the genetic testing she does. If risks are detected, she informs patients of screening and risk-reducing measures that may be taken, such as prophylactic surgery and chemoprevention.

Cancer genetic testing has made great strides over the last few years, as dozens of new genes that indicate cancer risk have been discovered. Instead of testing for two or three genes, McReynolds regularly tests people for 21 or more genes.

The AGN-BC certification is obtained by submitting a portfolio, which must articulate performance in four domains of practice: Professional Development, Professional and Ethical Nursing Practice, Teamwork and Collaboration, and Quality and Safety.

Applicants must hold an active R.N. license, a graduate degree in nursing and must have completed a certain number of hours in advanced genetics nursing.

Though McReynolds is a nurse practitioner, she notes that nurses do not need to be an N.P. to obtain the genetics certification.

“It really is a truly emerging field,” McReynolds said. “I don’t think we have a picture yet of how many people are going to apply for this, but this is the way medicine is going.”

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