Integrating the New Genetics Into Health Education Practice (2005)

Integrating the new genetics into health education practice: exploring the challenges for midwives, nurses and health visitors in primary care.

This MPhil study explored practice nurses, health visitors and midwives’ attitudes towards and knowledge of genetics. Results indicate that the majority of practitioners do believe genetics is relevant to practice. However, practice nurses were statistically the least willing of the three professional groups to take on the responsibilities associated with testing.

The majority of midwives and health visitors appeared willing to conduct genetic tests, however, they were reluctant to assess and discuss risk information. This reluctance is possibly explained by the practitioners’ poor understanding of basic inheritance patterns. Less than 1% (n=5) of the total sample (n=606) correctly answered four basic knowledge questions. This lack of understanding raises serious concerns about practitioners’ ability to gain consent to conduct existing screening tests such as the heel-prick test.

The data also suggest that caring for someone who has received an unfavourable result from a genetic test helps practitioners make the vital link between genetics and people. These practitioners appeared to appreciate the value of accurate and relevant information and they were less complacent about their own genetic knowledge levels. The successful integration of genetics into practice is dependent in part upon finding appropriate ways to simulate clinical exposure in a supported and secure environment.