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Meet the Genetic Counsellors

Watch this video to learn more about the role of genetic counsellors

In this video we meet Genetic Counsellors, highly skilled health professionals who often see patients and their families when a genetic or genomic test is going to be, or has been, done.

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.

Professor Anna Middleton, Dr Vishakha Tripathi, Monika Kosicka-Slawinska and Tom Austin showcase what the work of genetic counsellors involves:

  • 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.
  • The most important skill that genetic counsellors need is the ability to listen, and to walk for a moment in somebody else’s shoes; but they are also highly skilled in explaining complex genomic concepts.

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 experienced.

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Whole Genome Sequencing: Decoding the Language of Life and Health

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