September 28, 2023
• Advancements in genetic and genomic technologies allow for more customized health care called ‘precision health’.
• For precision health technologies to be effective, health care providers and educators need to know how to use them.
• A Genome BC-funded pilot project integrating precision health concepts and genomics education into the Master of Nursing – Nurse Practitioner program at Thompson Rivers University is the first initiative in Canada to make this training available to nurses.
Vancouver, BC — The way we deliver and receive health care is changing rapidly. Advancements in genetic and genomic technologies have opened the door to health care that is tailored to a person’s genetic makeup – a practice called ‘precision health’. Precision health has gone from being a service offered at specialized clinics to an essential component of everyday health care. However, this integration is hindered when there is limited genomic knowledge among health care providers and educators.
To bridge this gap, Genome British Columbia (Genome BC) is funding a pilot project to integrate genomics education into the new Master of Nursing – Nurse Practitioner program at Thompson Rivers University (TRU). The project is a collaboration with the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) with additional expertise from the University of British Columbia (UBC). This is the first initiative in Canada to integrate precision health concepts and genomics education into nurse practitioner training for both students and faculty.
“The main aim of this program is to make sure that everyone in BC who needs clinical genomic services can access them. We believe that providing health care providers with the right education is the starting point for achieving equitable access to genomics and precision health care for all,” says Sally Greenwood, Vice President of Communications and Societal Engagement at Genome BC.
Genome BC’s Genomic Education for Health Professionals (GEHP) program is the first initiative designed to strengthen the skills of health care workers in genomics. It was developed after a lack of resources to educate health professionals was identified as a major obstacle to using genomics in clinical care.
According to project co-lead, Dr. Sarah Dewell, Assistant Professor of Nursing at TRU, “Existing nurse practitioner programs teach very little genetic or genomic content, yet it is now a crucial part of many primary care clinical interactions regarding prevention, diagnosis and treatment of common diseases. We will introduce genomic literacy at TRU in a way that ensures it is immediately relevant and relatable.”
Through this project, nurse practitioner graduates and faculty will acquire the knowledge and skills to support the appropriate use of genetics and genomics in any community in the province. A crucial aspect of this project is extending the benefits of genomics to regions in British Columbia often neglected due to social and geographical reasons.
Members of the Department of Medical Genetics and the Faculty of Education at UBC will collaborate on the development of online learning materials with contributions by the faculty and students from UNBC’s Master of Science in Nursing: Family Nurse Practitioner Program. Dr. Catharine Schiller, Chair of UNBC’s School of Nursing, says, “Our nurse practitioner faculty and students are looking forward to participating in this novel pilot project and contributing to improved health equity in BC.”
This pilot project is a big step forward in using genomics and precision health in Canadian nursing care. Dr. Rani Srivastava, Dean of Nursing at TRU, states, “This pilot project resonates with TRU’s innovative and collaborative approach to nursing education. Our faculty eagerly anticipates integrating genomic content into our new nurse practitioner program and strengthening connections with UNBC and UBC.”
About Genome British Columbia:
Genome BC is a not-for-profit organization supporting world-class genomics research and innovation to grow globally competitive life sciences sectors and deliver sustainable benefits for British Columbia, Canada and beyond. The organization’s initiatives are improving the lives of British Columbians by advancing health care as well as addressing environmental and natural resource challenges. In addition to scientific programming, Genome BC works to integrate genomics into society by supporting responsible research and innovation and foster an understanding and appreciation of the life sciences among educators, students and the public. genomebc.ca
About Nurse Practitioners:
Nurse Practitioners (NPs) play a crucial role as licensed primary health care providers, equipped with nursing degrees and experience as registered nurses, followed by graduate education at the master’s level. NPs provide longitudinal, comprehensive primary care by diagnosing and treating people with a range of acute and chronic conditions across the lifespan. NPs order and interpret routine and specialized tests, prescribe medication and seamlessly initiate referrals to specialists. As such, NPs form an integral part of the overall strategy to enhance access to team-based primary care in British Columbia. bccmn.ca
Senior Communications Manager, Genome BC