A knowledge of basic genetics is essential to critical care nurses, because genomic science identifies the inherited variations that contribute to health, disease, and response to treatment.

Information from the Human Genome Project has the potential to transform the care of patients in the next decade. Pathological changes can now be analyzed at the molecular level, linking specific DNA sequences to complex diseases. Genomic science offers the potential to diagnose, prevent, and treat disease, including identifying individual factors that respond favorably to pharmacological intervention. Genomics will alter assessment and intervention strategies across health-care systems. Awareness of genetic concepts and advances in genomic information will enable critical care nurses to deliver optimal care.

In this article, I provide an overview of genomics and a review of genetic concepts, integrating current information about the molecular etiology of selected critical illnesses. I also describe the usefulness of obtaining a family history in the...

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