TAMK is the first in Finland to introduce Master’s Degree Programme in Genetic and Genomic Counselling

Tampere University of Applied Sciences introduced a master’s degree for nursing and biomedical laboratory science professionals interested in clinical genetics and genomics. It is the first Master’s Degree Programme in Genetic and Genomic Counselling in Finland.

The first group of students will start in August 2021. The master’s degree programme is conducted in English.

Genetic and genomic professionals are needed

Information on the human genotype enables promotion of health and wellbeing in many ways in the future. Genetic and genomic knowledge will significantly affect diagnosis and treatment of illnesses but also health promotion.

“There are not yet many nursing professionals who have genetic and genomic competence or work with genetic or genomic counselling in working life but their number and role will grow in the future,” tells TAMK’s Principal Lecturer Outi Kajula who is in charge of the Master’s Degree Programme in Genetic and Genomic Counselling. 

According to Kajula, genetic and genomic knowledge will be one of the largest development fields in health care also from the viewpoint of nursing. New extensive and diverse competence will be needed in counselling of patients and clients as the genetic knowledge increases.

Kajula tells that she has worked with clinical genetics for 20 years in different roles: genetic nurse, clinical nursing expert and researcher. Kajula wrote her doctoral thesis on genetic counselling of people with genetic susceptibility to breast cancer. During her research, Kajula observed that both degree and continuing education are needed to strengthen knowledge and skills in genetic counselling. Earlier there was no Master’s Degree Programme in Genetic and Genomic Counselling for nursing professionals in Finland.

“It became evident in international conferences that we lacked such education in Finland,” Kajula says.

Outi Kajula

"Students of the first group are highly motivated and have different backgrounds. The students are now at the edge of something new", Outi Kajula says. Photo: Emmi Suominen

Master’s degree based on international recommendations

The PROFITU project funded by the Ministry of Education and Culture studied use of genetic and genomic knowledge in health care. The purpose of the project was to develop health care staff’s competence in using genetic and genomic knowledge by integrating it into education and developing degree and continuing education. The profiling is significant for TAMK as regards its scale and impact.

The curriculum of the Master’s Degree Programme in Genetic and Genomic Counselling is based on international recommendations on the degree structure. Finnish geneticists provided valuable information for the degree programme contents.

“The idea on the degree programme smouldered in my mind for years and I am very happy that Tampere University of Applied Sciences made it possible to begin the degree programme,” Kajula says.

International studies have mapped clinical genetics educations in different countries. The studies revealed that the educations are very heterogenic around the world.

“In addition, genetic counselling professionals can use several titles, such as genetic nurse and genetic counsellor. There are no clear professional titles yet in Finland.” 

Focus on occupational development

TAMK’s master’s degree programme focuses on expertise and research competence. The core content is development of work and expertise.

The degree programme focuses on extensive and multidisciplinary special competence in genetic and genomic counselling of patients and clients. The emphasis is on medical knowledge, ethical and legislative issues as well as independent and critical thinking.

“The strong role of research methods was welcomed. The programme gives students abilities for working in research groups as research information producers, not just research nurses.”

Genetic and genomic knowledge represented in TAMK’s whole education provision

Genetic and genomic knowledge is included in all TAMK’s education types in the field of social and health care. In continuing education, the focus is on clinical work. Independent genetic counsellors are needed in clinical work.

“We offer genetic and genomic education in continuing education and open university of applied sciences. Bachelor’s degree curricula were also revised to include genetic and genomic knowledge in nursing degrees. There is now a good amount of genetic and genomic education at TAMK,” Kajula says.

Degree programme interests in Finland and abroad

The degree programme was available for application in the first joint application of the spring. It interested both Finnish and foreign applicants.

“Considering that this is a specific international education, the degree programme interested nicely. The selected students are highly motivated. The applicants had already familiarised themselves with the topic at the application phase. They have very good development topics from working life, on which they can work in their master’s thesis.”

Many new students had already mapped what is known about genes and genome in Finland and abroad.


Text: Arja Hautala
Photo: Pixabay

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