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BMC Fam Pract. 2011 Feb 17;12:5. doi: 10.1186/1471-2296-12-5.

Genetic educational needs and the role of genetics in primary care: a focus group study with multiple perspectives.

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Department of Clinical Genetics, EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research, VU University Medical Center, Amsterdam, The Netherlands.



Available evidence suggests that improvements in genetics education are needed to prepare primary care providers for the impact of ongoing rapid advances in genomics. Postgraduate (physician training) and master (midwifery training) programmes in primary care and public health are failing to meet these perceived educational needs. The aim of this study was to explore the role of genetics in primary care (i.e. family medicine and midwifery care) and the need for education in this area as perceived by primary care providers, patient advocacy groups and clinical genetics professionals.


Forty-four participants took part in three types of focus groups: mono-disciplinary groups of general practitioners and midwives, respectively and multidisciplinary groups composed of a diverse set of experts. The focus group sessions were audio-taped, transcribed verbatim and analysed using content analysis. Recurrent themes were identified.


Four themes emerged regarding the educational needs and the role of genetics in primary care: (1) genetics knowledge, (2) family history, (3) ethical dilemmas and psychosocial effects in relation to genetics and (4) insight into the organisation and role of clinical genetics services. These themes reflect a shift in the role of genetics in primary care with implications for education. Although all focus group participants acknowledged the importance of genetics education, general practitioners felt this need more urgently than midwives and more strongly emphasized their perceived knowledge deficiencies.


The responsibilities of primary care providers with regard to genetics require further study. The results of this study will help to develop effective genetics education strategies to improve primary care providers' competencies in this area. More research into the educational priorities in genetics is needed to design courses that are suitable for postgraduate and master programmes for general practitioners and midwives.

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