GENETIC COUNSELING Careers in Psychology Florida State University 02 April 2009 Kimberly Guthrie, MS
What does a genetic counselor do?
What are the demographics of a genetic counselor?
How does one become a genetic counselor?
Where can I find more information about pursuing a career in genetic counseling?
WHO ARE GENETIC COUNSELORS?
Genetic counselors are health professionals with specialized graduate degrees and experience in the areas of medical genetics and counseling.
Most enter the field from a variety of disciplines, including biology, genetics, nursing, psychology, public health and social work. (NSGC 1983)
WHAT DO GENETIC COUNSELORS DO?
Provide information and support to families who have members with birth defects or genetic disorders and to families who may be at risk for a variety of inherited conditions.
Identify families at risk, investigate the problem present, interpret information about the disorder, analyze inheritance patterns and risks of recurrence and review available options with the family.
The majority of genetic counselors practice in the following areas of specialty:
PRENATAL GC EXAMPLE
Ms. Roberts is a 28 year old woman. She is 17 weeks pregnant and this is her first pregnancy. She has a routine blood test at her OB’s office. She is told that it screens for Down syndrome and some other conditions. A week after the test ,she receives a call from the nurse saying she came back “screen positive” for trisomy 18. The nurse tells her the chance her baby has trisomy 18 is 1 in 100. She is referred to a genetic counselor.
ROLE OF PRENATAL GC
Review results of screening test
Obtain pregnancy and family history
Explain the cause and features of trisomy 18
Discuss further testing options
Facilitate decision making
Follow-up with further testing results
Use counseling skills to help patient cope with test results
PEDIATRIC GC EXAMPLE
Emily is a 2 year old girl who was born with profound hearing loss. She is the only individual in her family with hearing loss. She was recently evaluated by an ENT to consider cochlear implants. The ENT recommended that she have a Genetics evaluation to understand the cause of her hearing loss.
ROLE OF PEDIATRIC GC
Work closely with a medical geneticist
Review medical records
Obtain pregnancy, medical and family history
Discuss known causes of hearing loss
Discuss testing options
Counsel regarding test results and recurrence risk
Provide written information
Identify appropriate community resources
CANCER GC EXAMPLE
Mary is a 48 year old woman who is referred to a genetic counselor because her sister was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer at age 52. Her father and paternal grandmother were also diagnosed with breast cancer at ages 58 and 45 respectively. Mary tells you her sister has a mutation in the BRCA2 gene.
ROLE OF CANCER GC
Obtain medical records and relative’s test results as appropriate
Obtain family and medical history
Discuss features and genetics of Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer
Discuss risks and benefits of genetic testing
Review cancer risks and options for risk reduction
Arrange for testing if desired and follow-up counseling
WHERE DO GCS WORK?
Majority of genetic counselors
University medical centers
Private or public hospitals
Some genetic counselors:
Work in laboratories
Coordinate research studies
Are employed by the state
Work in private industry
WHERE ARE GC JOBS LOCATED? NSGC 2008 Professional Status Survey
SALARY NSGC 2008 Professional Status Survey
GRADUATE PROGRAMS www.abgc.net
Each program has its own requirements
Check multiple program web sites for more information
Prerequisite coursework typically includes:
One year of general biology
One year of general chemistry
One semester of biochemistry
One semester of genetics
One semester of statistics
In general, successful applicants have a minimum GPA of 3.0
ADDITIONAL APPLICATION REQUIREMENTS
Crisis counseling hotlines and Planned Parenthood
Experience working with individuals with special needs
Shadow a genetic counselor
NSGC – Find a counselor (www.nsgc.org)
GRE scores at and above 70 th percentile range are considered competitive
Some programs require GRE specialty exams as well
Three letters of recommendation
Submit complete application and supporting documentation
RESOURCES FOR MORE INFORMATION
American Board of Genetic Counseling
Accredits genetic counseling training programs and administers certification for genetic counselors
Has links to all training program websites
National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC)
Has information on how to find a GC near you
Has information about genetic counseling as a career