The crew from M&G would love to welcome our first guest post of 2017! This amazing list of resources are from prospective GC student, Brynna. Deciding if the GC profession is right for you? Just cannot find enough information out there regarding Genetic Counseling? Well, friends, this one is for you!
For basic/general information on what a genetic counselor is:
So, you have decided to be a genetic counselor? Great! Below are more resources on the next steps.
Steps to getting there:
How can you still be sure that this is the right career for you? Shadow a GC!
Contacting a Genetic Counselor:
We hope that you were able to find some new resources that will help you on your path to becoming a genetic counselor!
Is your favorite resource not on this list? We would love to hear what sources you find helpful in the comments below!
Do you want to sound smart when you talk about genetics? Do you have graduate school interviews coming up and need to impress the director? Do you want to deep-dive into the world of genetic counseling to understand if this career is for you? (Is your cat making too much noise?)
If you nodded yes to one or more of the above questions, look no further. We’ve got you covered. Check out the below resources to stay on top of this crazy world of deoxyribonucleic acid.
BONUS: Follow @gcprobs on Instagram. I don’t know who made this Instagram account, but whoever you are (all of you?), I’d like to congratulate you on being hilarious. Feel free to contact us to share your wit on maps and genes.
Dearest readers, we want to hear from you!
We are looking to release a video blog series on the topics of MOST interest to you. Thus, we want to know what topics are of utmost importance. What voids or questions do you still have in regards to genetics, graduate school, genetic counseling program interviews, etc? What topics can you not get enough of? Would you enjoy a video blog?
Please comment below or email us! email@example.com
We are doing our best over here to keep you up to date on opportunities and experiences for prospective students looking to learn more about the field. We even added a new tab to our site and aim to improve this over time.
For now, GeneDx is offering its fall Prospective GC Day with opportunities to join in remotely.
Date: November 15, 2016
Time: 9am-2pm EST
Location: GeneDx 207 Perry Parkway Gaithersburg, MD 20877
RSVP: Meg Bradbury, MS, CGC, MSHS (firstname.lastname@example.org) by November 15, 2016
If you are not in the Maryland area please join us remotely by video conference! For further information please contact Mbradbury@genedx.com to RSVP and request a login to join us online. Please pass on to anyone that might be interested.
The following is a guest post by Anna Essendrup, M.S., CGC and Thuy-mi (Mimi) Nguyen, M.S..
Our names are Anna and Mimi, both graduates of the same GC program in Colorado. We now work together as lab genetic counselors at Mayo Clinic. We are really excited about this blog and are enthusiastic about sharing our experiences with non-traditional roles of genetic counseling. We are here to bust a few common myths about non-traditional roles.
“Do not begin your genetic counseling career in a laboratory unless you want to stay in laboratory forever”/”Once you transition to lab, you cannot transition back to clinic”
One of the BIGGEST myths regarding laboratory genetic counseling is that it is a “dead-end” in the genetic counseling field. You might think that once you have left the patient care arena and stepped into a laboratory role, you will lose your patient care skills and wouldn’t be considered for a role in that area today. This could not be further from the truth. Both laboratory and clinical genetic counselors use the same skills and knowledge base to interpret results, communicate genetic information, and develop a professional relationship with the client/patient.
For example, laboratory counselors may call results out to an ordering physician while clinical counselors call out results to the patient. Both calls require establishing rapport between counselor and client. Once that rapport is established, results need to be communicated at a level that is appropriate for the individual at the other end of the call. Genetic counselors have a keen ability to monitor the level of understanding that the client/patient may have and adjust the level of detail/explanation accordingly to ensure that each person fully understands the results presented to him or her. Genetic counselors also have training in non-directive counseling, allowing the clients to make their own decisions based on what is right for them or their patient.
Genetic counselors use a variety of skills throughout their practice, regardless of the setting. All settings for genetic counseling are critical for the quality care of patients awaiting a potential genetic diagnosis. We are able to educate and empower all healthcare team members to ensure that their patients received the best quality of care possible.
“Genetic counseling is all about stem cell therapy and genetic manipulation”
Genetics is a quickly growing field with many new developments that are highlighted in the media. Some developments can be overstated and dramatized by news outlets or other sources to make them more attractive to the general population. Buzzwords like “stem cell therapy” and “genetic manipulation” can take a dramatic spotlight; however, the majority of stem cell therapy and genetic manipulation has not progressed past the research phase. In actuality, and unfortunately, there are only a handful of clinically-available treatments which may be indicated based on results of genetic testing. Fortunately, many genetic counselors may have the opportunity to work in research. Research involves many aspects of genetics and counseling and can includes areas of gene-specific activity and expression, database compilation and review, best practices in selecting genetic testing, communicating genetic information, and supporting patients with and without a diagnosis.
The genetic counseling skill set is highly applicable to research. It is now evident that informed patient consent is not only ideal but critical to the research process. Genetic counselors are trained to have a wide understanding of scientific methods and concepts and, most importantly, are highly trained in translating complicated medical information at a level which can be understood by a variety of audiences. Because of this training, genetic counselors become an important point person for communication between all involved research team members and research participants. Genetic counselors are also able to bridge the gap between research and bedside to inform patients of research study options and increase access to these opportunities.
“A Geneticist is the same as a Genetic Counselor”
While geneticists and genetic counselors have a similar knowledge base and often work very closely with each other, our disciplines are unique and require different skill sets to become a master in the field.
Both MD and PhD geneticists train through at least 4 years of medical school and at least 2 years of residency. This includes extensive training in overall medicine, including diagnostics, physical examination of patients, and dysmorphology (the study of different body structures/features/birth defects). Genetic counselors require a 2 year master’s degree. This includes some diagnostics as well as counseling and education skills. Both specialists must pass board exams put forth by their respective professional organizations: Genetic Counselors take the American Board of Genetic Counseling exam, while the Geneticists take the American College of Medical Genetics exam.
Within the clinic and laboratory, geneticists and genetic counselors often work as a team, but with specific roles assigned to each. These roles may vary greatly based on setting but generally, geneticists are the individuals who are responsible for the interpretation of genetic testing and assigning diagnostics based on physical exam, clinical history or laboratory results. Genetic counselors are typically in the role of providing education regarding genetic concepts, including test results, and counseling the patient through decision making and adapting to a diagnosis (or non-diagnosis).
“Genetic counselors sit in isolation and do Punnett squares all day”
We like to think of genetic counseling as more of a skill set that can be applied to many medical and scientific situations, as opposed to a specific activity or role. That being said, genetic counseling involves a wide variety of disciplines and interaction with individuals in many different fields. On a day to day basis, genetic counselors also work as part of a diagnostic team which may include physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, medical assistants and administrative staff. Genetic counselors are involved in education, research, counseling and many other settings. In the lab specifically, genetic counselors are not only involved in education, but also in a wide variety of additional tasks, such as coordinating receipt/sending of specimens, troubleshooting issues with testing, ensuring the correct test is performed for the patient, helping develop new tests/technologies and many more. Punnett squares are used as an education tool or as a part of risk assessment. They are ONE among MANY tools that genetic counselors use to complete their daily tasks, but certainly not all that we do. Punnett squares are simply one way to teach genetic concepts.
Interested in the details on how this blog got started?
Get the background scoop via this article from Perspectives in Genetic Counseling (page 8-9)
With out-of-state tuition costs swimming through my mind, I quickly accepted that what was once just a “busy” semester might now entirely overwhelm me. In addition to the mounting coursework and clinical rotations, I had decided to squeeze a 20-hour per week teaching assistantship into my already overflowing schedule. A small price to pay, I thought, for complete tuition remission and a monthly stipend. However, as the semester wore on, I soon recognized teaching for the university to be an invaluable part of my graduate education and growth as a genetic counselor.
Founded in communicating complex information with finesse and clarity, genetic counseling is a profession that truly relies upon an ability to educate others. Teaching six discussion sections for an introductory zoology course afforded me countless opportunities to hone these essential skills.
First and foremost, teaching requires you to understand material well enough to explain it to others. To survive as both a teaching assistant and graduate student, you quickly learn how to be efficient in gathering information on a topic. Distinguishing what is and is not essential for you to know is a critical component of quickly acquiring familiarity with a subject. This is a skill similar to what I have observed clinical and laboratory genetic counselors do as they juggle countless patients and side projects. As an individual prone to getting hung up on technical details, learning to focus my efforts and manage my time more efficiently has become an indispensable skill.
In working with students, I have also found a platform to exercise my core counseling abilities. As with patients, students may have variable styles of learning and differences in understanding. To be an effective educator, it is important to first assess how a student may be approaching the material. By discerning an individual’s current level of understanding you are then able to operate within their frame of reference. This is a skill that directly applies to working with patients and their families. Ultimately, teaching has afforded me frequent opportunities to practice effective communication and refine my counseling techniques. This has resulted in greater confidence in my abilities and permitted me to dive into patient interactions with less hesitation.
Additionally, working as a teaching assistant has allowed me to practice my presentation skills almost daily. An asset in any profession, public speaking and presenter skills are best maintained through consistent use. Class and case presentations are no longer quite so nerve-wracking with teaching as a part of my weekly routine. Undoubtedly these skills will continue to serve me as a practicing genetic counselor.
What I once thought would overwhelm me has become instrumental to my training and provided endless opportunities for counseling and professional skill-building. Without the flexibility and support provided by my training program, a teaching assistantship might not have been a possibility during my graduate education. It is with great appreciation for the professional and financial benefits that I look forward to teaching again next semester.