Integrating Genomic Medicine into Mental Health Nursing – Part 1 (Introduction)

This post will be the first of many to examine how genetics and genomics can enhance the job that we do as mental health nurses – both now and in years to come. This first post discusses the need for genomics literacy in nursing practice and the initiatives that can enable this to occur. 

We are constantly gaining knowledge about how changes to our genome affect us as people, such as the likelihood of developing common health conditions, and how we will respond to medications. We are also seeing an increasing degree of genomic medicine occurring outside – and relatively independent of – traditional genetics services.  Some areas of medicine have been early adopters of this mainstreaming approach, such as oncology and cardiology, but the NHS plans to enable more to follow suit over the coming years.

To enable nurses to work with aspects of mainstreamed genomic medicine, the nursing workforce must increase its genomics literacy. Over the last couple of years, I have been lucky enough to work alongside the NHS North Thames and South East Genomic Medicine Service Alliances, and several other London-based Universities. Our aim has been to address the overt mention of genomics from the Future nurse: Standards of proficiency for registered nurses document released by the NMC in 2018. On closer inspection, there were a number of standards that could incorporate aspects of genomic medicine. Here is a summary from our working group that shows how genomics can relate to the current standards.

From this, we developed a set of learning outcomes that could be integrated into Pre-registration Nursing and Midwifery curricula. We have presented these at an open-day event in 2023, and will be disseminating them at the RCN Education Forum National Conference and Exhibition 2024 in York. These outcomes, or core principles, have now been published on Health Education England’s fantastic Genomics Education Programme website. It’s a big site, so here are some notable pages for nursing on it:

  • Nursing and Midwifery: Core Principles in Genomics. This link comes with a series of FAQs. The document itself has numerous links to resources to aid in the learning of the core principles.
  • Genomics in Nursing. This page details why it is important to learn about genomics as nurses, and it provides bitesize resources to help your understanding of key concepts.
  • Nursing Educator’s Toolkit. This page provides scenarios and follow-up questions that relate to and illustrate core genomics principles in nursing.


But what about applications to Mental Health Nursing Practice?

From browsing the Genomics Education Programme website and the Core Principles, you may feel that the content is quite generalised. At our open day event, an attendee quite rightly asked how genomics principles applied to Mental Health Nursing. After giving this some careful thought, I surprised myself by the number of potential topics and concepts that could be discussed here. Over the next few posts, I will run through what these are and will provide some resources to help your understanding of these applications. I plan on covering the following topics:

Before then, if you would like to read about the clinical applications of genomics to the field of mental health, the Royal Society of Psychiatrists has released this document that covers matters very comprehensively. If any Mental Health Nurse Academics or Educators would like to know more, would like help, or would like to help in the process of integrating genomics into mental health nursing curricula or mental health practice, then please reach out to me at


Title Picture: Darryl Leja, National Human Genome Research Institute, National Institutes of Health

Posted by Ben Murphy

Ben is a registered mental health nurse, holds an MSc in Genetic Counselling, and is a lecturer in Biological Sciences at City, University of London. Amongst other things, he teaches anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology and therapeutics to pre-reg. and post-reg. nursing students.

  1. Excellent Read and Application (combined with links for further knowledge) to one of the main topics in Biological Sciences for 1st Year Mental Health Nursing Students – Genetics


    1. Thank you Rajiv. Hopefully I’ll have more applications in future posts on the topic. Next up will be chromosomal changes and mental health.


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