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Nursing Program Enhancing Genetics Instruction

Nursing Program Enhancing Genetics InstructionValparaiso University nursing students will gain a greater understanding of genetics and its relationship to nursing as part of a new nationwide initiative.

Christine Kurtz, assistant professor of nursing, and other educators representing approximately 30 nursing schools were recently selected to participate in a workshop at the National Institutes of Health which trained them to become faculty champions for teaching genetics and genomics. Kurtz and Valpo’s College of Nursing will help lead an effort to meet the new criteria of the nursing curriculum essentials in genetics that are set by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing (AACN).

“The purpose of the faculty champion is to facilitate integration of genetics and genomics content into our nursing curriculum,” Kurtz said. “I will basically function as a change agent to update the curriculum with appropriate educational content as required by AACN.”

Genetics is a growing area of focus in the nursing profession, Kurtz says, as research continues to reveal genetic links to more diseases.

“The enhanced study of genetics will help our nurses provide a more comprehensive approach to care,” Kurtz said. “They will be working with patients that have diseases with genetic links.”

AACN is a national organization for nursing education programs, and leads efforts to establish quality standards for nursing education, influence the nursing profession to improve health care, promote public support of baccalaureate and graduate education, advance research and practice in nursing, and assist deans and directors in implementing those standards.

The changes to Valpo’s curriculum will center on genetics, which focus on the family history of disease, and genomics, which involves the understanding of the pool of genes in the body and environmental factors that affect disease and health.

“It’s exciting be the leader of change,” Kurtz said. “I’ll be working with the entire faculty in Valpo’s nursing program and the improvements will affect most everyone, empowering them to teach genetics and genomics throughout the curriculum, and enhancing our current strategies in those areas.”

Kurtz will begin the approximately yearlong project in Valpo’s College of Nursing with an assessment of current genetics and genomics instruction and a knowledge needs assessment of faculty. This research will be followed by a plan for personal and faculty development, and the final stage will be the integration of the appropriate genetics/genomics content into the curriculum.

“Ultimately, the focus on genetics will increase in some of the didactic courses as well as the faculty-student conferences before and after clinical experiences,” Kurtz said, adding that the genetics/genomics curriculum will be evaluated on an ongoing basis, but the majority of the significant initial change should happen by next September.

Kurtz has taught at Valpo’s College of Nursing since 2003. Prior to that, she taught in the undergraduate nursing program at Rush University and practiced as a psychiatric clinical nurse specialist at Rush North Shore Medical Center.

More information about Valpo’s College of Nursing can be found at

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