Genetic counsellors have training in both genetics/genomics and counselling. They are integral to the genomics multidisciplinary team in a hospital and they see a wide variety of patients; both before genomic testing, to discuss the testing available and the implications of any test, and/or after testing to discuss results. Many genetic counsellors will see a wide variety of patients, including, for example: children diagnosed with a rare disease and their families; expectant mothers or couples undergoing prenatal testing; and adults questioning hereditary cancer risk. At consultant level, genetic counsellors will usually specialise, for example in cancer.
Genetic counsellors are specialists in unravelling the complexities of genomics for the patient and family in front of them. Unlike clinical geneticists, who are the doctors responsible for diagnosis, genetic counsellors usually see patients when the diagnosis is quite clear: either after a test when the patient has a diagnosis, or before testing when it is clear what condition is being explored in the family. It is their job to ensure that the patient and family have fully understood the process and result. Genetic counsellors have time to spend with patients so that they can ensure that they address the issues of concern for the individual or family in the consultation.
Increasingly, as genomics is mainstreamed across the NHS, genetic counsellors are called upon more and more to educate other healthcare professionals. They are often also involved in research and service development, particularly as they become more senior.
In this film, we hear more about the role from:
• Professor Anna Middleton, Chair of Association of Genetic Nurses and Counsellors; Head of Society and Ethics Research Group, Wellcome Genome Campus; Professor/Affiliate Lecturer, University of Cambridge
• Vishakha Tripathy, Consultant Genetic Counsellor, South East Thames Regional Genetics Service
• Monika Kosicka-Slawinska, Principal Genetic Counsellor, North West Thames Regional Genetics Service
• Tom Austin, Trainee Genetic Counsellor, West Midlands Regional Genetics Service
Health Education England's Genomics Education Programme is developing a substantial education programme to inform healthcare professionals about the impact of genomics on clinical practice. This video is the one of the many educational resources from the programme. For more information visit genomicseducation.hee.nhs.uk