When The Line Between Being A Friend and A Genetic Counselor Becomes Fuzzy

Set scene.

It’s 9 pm on a Friday night and I walk into a friend’s apartment all ready to catch up on meaningless gossip with friends.

“Kelly!  I have a genetics question for you.”

“What if I have a family history of *insert condition* what are the chances of me having that condition?”

“Is it okay to take this medicine during the first trimester of my pregnancy?”

End scene.

I imagine many of you have found yourselves in similar situations.  I constantly get questions from friends and family members regarding their chances for developing a genetic condition.  I also get many questions from friends who are pregnant.

My initial reaction is always one where I want to just sit them down and counsel them.  I want to give them all the information they’re looking for.  I want to help them.  I love when people I’m close with show an interest in my passion and I want to seize that opportunity.  It also means something to me that they trust me with some of their most personal question regarding their health.

I have a personal rule that I stop and think before I answer these types of questions.  I remind myself to take off my genetic counselor hat and to be a friend/family member first.  I do sometimes give very general and basic textbook scientific information.  I do not counsel a friend’s risk of developing a condition nor do I give them any medical advice.  I have never and will not counsel friends/family members outside of a clinic setting.  This not only protects me, it also protects them.  I cannot provide quality services outside of a clinic setting if I don’t have access to accurate medical information, can’t order tests, and I can’t protect their privacy.

What do you feel your responsibilities are as a genetic counselor outside of “work?”  Do you always wear your genetic counselor hat?  What are our responsibilities when we know we could provide a lot of helpful information?  Do we hold all that information from them and encourage our loved ones to make an appointment with a genetic counselor/geneticist/doctor?  What if they never make that appointment?

What are some experiences you have had?  Where and how do you draw the line between being a counselor and a friend/family member?

1 Comment

Filed under Kelly Rogel

One response to “When The Line Between Being A Friend and A Genetic Counselor Becomes Fuzzy

  1. Megan

    Definitely had this happen several times and I have to admit I also feel that surge of pride that someone has an interest in what I do (because otherwise they don’t have a clue!!). I can’t resist not at least answering in a very general way if possible and directing them to their physician.

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