UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page -
UBC Home Page UBC Home Page -
News Events Directories Search UBC myUBC Login
- -
UBC Public Affairs
UBC Reports
UBC Reports Extras
Goal / Circulation / Deadlines
Letters to the Editor & Opinion Pieces / Feedback
UBC Reports Archives
Media Releases
Services for Media
Services for the Community
Services for UBC Faculty & Staff
Find UBC Experts
Search Site

UBC Reports | Vol. 50 | No. 1 | Jan. 8, 2004

Doctors and Nurses Need to Keep Up with Genetic Training

Many now getting that information from newspapers

By Hilary Thomson

Your father and uncle both died of a heart attack and you've gone to your doctor to find out if you're at risk.

The only problem is -- your doctor doesn't know much more than you do.

This scenario is all too common in Canada, according to a study done by a group of researchers led by Joan Bottorff, a UBC professor of nursing and a UBC Distinguished University Scholar.

The team looked at the education needs and roles of practicing doctors and nurses regarding genetic testing and diseases with a hereditary component. They polled more than 1,400 doctors and the same number of nurses across Canada to investigate their knowledge, involvement and confidence in providing current and accurate genetic information on diseases such as cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and neurodegenerative illnesses like Alzheimer's and Huntingdon's disease.

They found that 48 per cent of nurses and 31 per cent of doctors lacked formal education in genetics.

"Genetics is evolving rapidly and many health practitioners are struggling to keep up," says Bottorff. "The need for information is becoming urgent as more genetic tests and genetically tailored therapies become available."

The average age of the survey respondents was 46 years for nurses and 48 years for physicians. Educated before anyone had heard about Dolly the cloned sheep, those surveyed indicated their main sources of genetics information were newspapers and magazines, television, scientific journals and pamphlets and patients with genetic disorders.

With data gained from these sources, doctors and nurses work with patients on diet and exercise plans to reduce their risk of inherited illness and advise them on genetic screening and testing, family planning and other issues.

Bottorff says there's a pressing need for combined professional education programs for doctors and nurses because their roles in providing genetic information often overlap. Challenges to providing such programs include reaching out to practitioners in rural areas and keeping curricula up to date.

Bottorff and a group of provincial and national practitioners and policy-makers will meet this month to strategize how to develop continuing education courses in genetics. But the needs of practicing doctors and nurses are not the only concern. Genetics is not consistently integrated into nursing and medical curricula and few nursing faculty members are qualified to teach the subject.

"Are we preparing practitioners for the future? That's the question," says Bottorff. Her vision for genetics education includes basic information that can serve as a benchmark for all practitioners, modules for nurses in advanced practice such as cancer nursing and a separate stream of graduate nursing education focused on genetics.

- - -  

Last reviewed 22-Sep-2006

to top | UBC.ca » UBC Public Affairs

UBC Public Affairs
310 - 6251 Cecil Green Park Road, Vancouver, BC Canada V6T 1Z1
tel 604.822.3131 | fax 604.822.2684 | e-mail public.affairs@ubc.ca

© Copyright The University of British Columbia, all rights reserved.