Nurses have been called the beating heart of our medical system by President Barack Obama. With advances in genetics and genomics being translated into practice every day, the demand is growing for nurses to bring their considerable skills and expertise to genomic medicine.
One genetic nurse who is doing that at an exemplary level is the Center for Individualized Medicine’s own Katherine Burbank, R.N. Burbank, who goes by Katie, recently received the International Society of Nurses in Genetics (ISONG) 2015 Founder Award of Excellence in Practice.
The ISONG Founders awards, established in 1996, is to honor individual ISONG members who have demonstrated excellence in genomic nursing education, research or service. Nominated by their peers, ISONG winners are recognized as members who have served ISONG and are leaders in genetic or genomic nursing and health care. Burbank, like the other award winners, deliver on the society’s commitment to care for people's genetic and genomic health throughout the lifespan and across the continuum of health and disease.
“There’s a big explosion of genetic information in health care,” Burbank said. “It’s hard for people to keep up. Nurses can help fill that gap, from the bedside all the way to testing, and help people understand the impact that genetics has on their lives.”
Burbank joined the Mayo Clinic Nursing Genomics Interest Group in 2003 and shared her work with couples with high risk pregnancies, oftentimes related to genetic issues. In 2005, Mayo Clinic was awarded the Magnet Prize in 2005 for the Nursing Genomics Program. Burbank played an essential role in this accomplishment by discussing her clinical genetic nursing activities, and later sharing her experiences of genomics in practice at the Magnet Conference in 2006.
Burbank, who comes from a medical family and whose mother worked in the research laboratories at Mayo Clinic, described her focus on including genomics in nursing practice by saying, “I always compare thinking about genomics to the movie, The Matrix, as all of a sudden you see code in everything.”
Her ability to “see code” in clinical care went far beyond the expectations of her role as a staff nurse at Mayo Clinic. She received her credentials to become a Genetics Clinical Nurse and has been active giving talks and presentations, writing articles, and initiating research to help define the role of clinical nurses in delivering genomics care to patients. She continues as an innovator by being the first nurse to accept a clinical position in the Mayo Clinic Center for Individualized Medicine where she works to help facilitate whole exome testing, capturing family histories in pedigree format, and providing patient and peer education related to genomics.
“Katie assumed a leadership role in collaborating with genetic counselors and physicians to provide assessments and education to families and participated in research that concluded the most vital role for nurses was providing psychosocial support when dealing with genetically inherited conditions,” said Elizabeth Pestka, MS, APRN, ANG, a clinical nurse specialist who nominated Burbank for the ISONG award.
What does Burbank see as the future of genetic nurses? “I would like to see is genetic nurses embedded on floors. I think nurses can bridge the gap between nurses, genetic counselors and physicians,” Burbank said.
Here Burbank shares her reactions and thoughts to winning the ISONG Founders Award.