Genetic education and nongenetic health professionals: Educational providers and curricula in Europe

Challen, Kirsty, Harris, Hilary J, Julian-Reynier, Claire, ten Kate, Leo P, Kristoffersson, Ulf, Nippert, Irmgard, Schmidtke, Jörg, Benjamin, Caroline and Harris, Rodney (2005) Genetic education and nongenetic health professionals: Educational providers and curricula in Europe. Genetics in Medicine, 7 (5). pp. 302-310. ISSN 1098-3600

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Purpose: Advances in and diffusion of genetic technology mean that nongeneticist health professionals have an increasing need to develop and maintain genetic competencies. This has been recognized by patient support groups and the European Commission. As the first phase of the GenEd (Genetic Education for Nongenetic Health Professionals) project, we investigated health professional education at undergraduate, postgraduate, and continuing levels in terms of genetic content and delivery. Methods: Information was collected in the five GenEd partner countries (France, Germany, Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK) by reviewing published curricula and web sites and by directly contacting educational and regulatory organizations. Information was also requested from a further six South and East European collaborators (Greece, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania, Poland, and Spain). Results: Health professional education and training differed in structure with wide variation in the content and duration of genetic education provided. France and Germany have national undergraduate medical curricula but with minimal overt genetic content, mainly confined to basic science courses. In Sweden, Netherlands, and the UK, the content is largely at the discretion of individual universities. Evidence from the UK, France, and Germany indicates that genetic professionals are influencing the genetic content of medical curricula. In postgraduate training, some specialist regulators have adopted specific genetic educational requirements, but many programs lack any explicit genetics. Within each country many organizations have responsibility for setting, assessing, and delivering medical and midwifery education. Conclusions: Due to the multiplicity of organizations involved in the provision of genetic education, changing professional education is likely to be challenging. However, it may be that development of a multiprofessional consensus across Europe is achievable. The strategy adopted by the US National Coalition for Health Professional Education in Genetics may be helpful.

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