Priorities For The Genetic Counseling Profession For The Next Decade

Lately I have been thinking about the future of genetic counseling and where the profession should be heading. What with busy work schedules, institutional budget crises driven by a shaky economy , and the emotional burdens of caring for our patients, it is easy to lose track of the bigger picture of what the genetic counseling profession should be striving for. So, over a beer (perhaps two), I decided to step back from the craziness of the workaday world and put together some thoughts about where I think our profession should be headed in the coming  years. The order of this Top Ten List does not reflect priority. In earlier drafts, I re-ordered the items so often as to destroy any test/re-test reliability. They are all critical, I guess.

Read the list. Argue some points with me. Think it over. Venture your own ideas in the Comments section. Have fun with it.

A “Top Ten” Agenda For The Genetic Counseling Profession For The Next Decennium

1)    Work on our relationship with, and develop a better understanding of how we are perceived by, people with disabilities, and their advocates.

2)    Integrate our services into the evolving landscape of widely available genetic testing for many common and rare genetic conditions.

3)    Develop, conduct, and publish a coherent research agenda about the process and outcomes of genetic counseling so we can effectively deliver genetic counseling in meaningful ways to improve the medical, psychological, and social well-being of our patients.

4)    Ensure that genetic counselors are covered providers in all pubic and private insurance plans so that every patient, regardless of socio-economic status, has access to our services.

5)    Educate ourselves to stay up to date in the rapidly growing field of genetic medicine, and encourage personal and professional growth.

6)    Develop and grow our counseling skills to ensure that all patients receive psychologically, emotionally, and culturally sensitive genetic counseling.

7)    Increase the demographic diversity of the profession to reflect our patient population.

8)    Increase the professional diversity of genetic counseling jobs and skills so that we are an integral part of all relevant aspects of clinical care, as well as policy development and implementation, laboratory medicine, academics, government services, and research.

9)    Encourage active involvement in our professional organizations (NSGC, ABGC), and with our relationships with other professional organizations, to ensure that we have a public face that reflects our priorities and that advocates for the profession.

10)  Maintain the highest quality in our training programs to ensure that the profession continues to be supplied with bright, thoughtful, ethical, empathic, and well-educated individuals.


Filed under Robert Resta

6 responses to “Priorities For The Genetic Counseling Profession For The Next Decade

  1. Sarah

    Could not agree more with all thes epoints. As someone who is at the start of their genetic counselling career (4 years in) I want to contribute something to the field and these ten points are a brilliant place to start. I’ll be printing them off and putting them up in my office as a reminder.

  2. I like this, Bob. I especially like points 5 and 2, which I think are inevitably intertwined:

    5) Educate ourselves to stay up to date in the rapidly growing field of genetic medicine, and encourage personal and professional growth.
    2) Integrate our services into the evolving landscape of widely available genetic testing for many common and rare genetic conditions.

    I’ll argue (as I always do) that we each individually need to keep an open mind about the new types of genetic and genomic testing services that are out there, and that we should do our best to educate ourselves about them (regardless of whether or not we agree with them). I applaud the NSGC for their recently developed comprehensive and forward-thinking online ‘Genomics’ course, which I think is an incredibly needed and valuable resource for our profession.

  3. Robert Resta

    If we all could work towards a few, even just one, of these goals, in big or small ways, everyone benefits – individual genetic counselors, the entire profession, our patients, society as a whole. We need the up and coming crop of genetic counselors – folks like Sarah – to follow through on these goals.

    And Allie is right about keeping an open mind. The hardest part of the future is that it’s so different than the comfortable and secure past. But just because we have always done it one way doesn’t mean it is the right way. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, we must all promise to live in the Past, the Present, and the Future so that the spirits of all three should strive within us (although I must admit that The Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come always creeped me out).

  4. Tina-Marié (SA)

    Like Sarah I couldn’t agree more. I want to add to point 1, about how we are perceived by people with disabilities and their advocates. I don’t know if colleagues elsewhere have a similar problem, but we certainly need to also work on how we are perceived by health care practitioners (doctors and others). It seems that our medical colleagues only perceive us to be “useful” for AMA counselling and dysmorphic developmentally delayed children. We have made some progress with regards to our role in oncology, but we still have a long way to go.

  5. Beth Balkite

    #3 Research agenda: I would add evidence based outcome of research to this topic. We need DATA that demonstrates how genetic counseling makes a difference: to patient care, to the bottom line, to whatever. To say counseling is important without DATA is not good enough.
    #9 Professional Societies: This is key to our profession growing in all areas of medicine so I would add the professional societies in the area of GC specialization. For example, many public health genetic counselors are also members of APHA (American Public Health Association). It would be interesting if NSGC held its annual meeting to coincide with the different areas of GC specialization to expose newer members to professional diversity in a positive way.

  6. I would add raising the public profile of the profession to the list. In my own experience, few members of the general public, and surprisingly few healthcare providers (at least those outside of fields related to genetics and/or reproductive health), are aware of genetic counseling. Even the phrase “genetic counseling” itself can be off-putting to the unfamiliar, sounding more like eugenics than a non-directive process. Writing about genetic counseling for newspapers and popular magazines would go a long way toward familiarizing the average health care consumer with the field. Individuals with a basic understanding of genetic counseling are more likely to see its value and expect related services, especially important as the profession becomes more integrated into other aspects of clinical care, as in #8.

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