Genetic counsellors see individuals and families to discuss genetic conditions that are present, or are thought to be present, in their family. Information about an individual’s personal medical history and their family history is taken into account when determining the likelihood of a genetic condition running in a family.
Genetic counsellors see individuals and their families in clinic to discuss the genetic condition in question, including the likelihood of the individual being affected by the genetic condition, associated symptoms, how the condition is inherited, which family members may be affected or at risk, reproductive options, and the choices that may be available to people affected with the condition in order to manage or reduce the impact of the disorder.
If appropriate, a genetic counsellor may also offer genetic testing. Diagnostic genetic testing may be offered to an individual with a definite or suspected clinical diagnosis of a particular genetic condition. A genetic test result can be a useful addition to the diagnosis, as it may confirm and/or refine the diagnosis, help to guide screening and management for the condition, help to identify family members that are also at risk of having the condition, and also help to determine the chance of the individual having a child affected with the condition. Predictive genetic testing may be offered to relatives of a person affected with a genetic condition. Results from predictive genetic testing can give information about the chance of developing symptoms, any screening that may be beneficial, and can give information about the chance of having children affected with the condition.
During the STP, through the teaching provided for the Master’s course at Manchester University, genomic counselling trainees develop a solid understanding of basic genetics, and learn about a large range of genetic conditions, while also advancing their communication and counselling skills. In the clinical genetics department at their trust, trainees have the opportunity to observe in genetic counselling clinics, furthering their knowledge of genetic conditions, improving their communication and counselling skills, and building up over the training programme to taking their own consultations and clinics. In their department trainees also attend multidisciplinary meetings and team meetings, and experience the day to day tasks of a genetic counsellor, such as triaging of referrals, clinic preparation, and post-clinic note and letter writing.
During the first year of training, trainees spend time rotating around different departments at their trust. Time is spent in genetics, bioinformatics, and one of either reproductive science, biochemistry, or histopathology. The rotations in genetics and bioinformatics are a useful way of getting a feel for the whole patient pathway, and for gaining a better understanding of the laboratory techniques and analysis methods, including sensitivities and limitations, behind the genetic testing that genetic counsellors offer to patients. The optional rotation allows trainees to experience a service/department that some of our patients may be referred to, or where some of their other clinical testing has been carried out.