Hello, my name is Hannah! I am a first year STP student on the Genomic Counselling programme, but I have almost ten years of experience in healthcare science. This includes over seven years of NHS service, predominantly as a Biomedical Scientist in Immunology.
I am a passionate advocate for mental health and practice as a Mental Health First Aider, combined with being a former Samaritans Call Volunteer and student of counselling qualifications. Whilst I gained invaluable scientific skills as an NHS Scientist, the role didn’t satisfy my desire to interact with and support patients more directly. I was familiar with the STP due to training Biochemistry students on their immunology rotations, and after much soul searching, I decided to commence my own STP journey. I felt that Genomic Counselling could bridge my interest in counselling skills with my scientific background and I was determined to gain the care experience required for my application. I managed to train as a Hospice Care Volunteer and offer emotional support as a Samaritan, alongside my Biomedical Science NHS service work.
When I began writing this blog post I was thinking back to July 2018, I had accepted my place on the STP in Genomics at Addenbrooke’s Hospital in Cambridge. Then I received an email from my training officer asking me what rotations I would like to choose for my first year. My first thought was ‘Wow this is really real, I’m actually going to be on the STP?!’, before panicking about how I was supposed to decide on the departments I would like to spend my rotations in this early on!
Since the first established Master’s Programme in the UK in 1992, there has been a growing demand for Genetic Counsellors and a growing recognition of the role of genetics in health. To address this, in 2016 the NHS developed the Science Training programme (STP) in Genomic Counselling in partnership with the University of Manchester. When I was looking into applying in that first year of the programme, I found a lot of things were a big unknown in terms of what specifically was required to have a good chance of getting an interview. I couldn’t find many people talking about their experience of applying without reading lengths of conversation on the Student Room.
The STP training is recorded by signing things off for your e-portfolio and your university assessments. Work-based training involves competencies, case-based discussions (CBD), direct observation of practical skills (DOPS) or observed clinical events (OCE). For each rotation or specialist module, you have to do all the competencies involved and a combination of DOPS or OCES, and CBDs.
As part of my Bioinformatics rotation, and because I usually don’t like to do things the easy way, I got to go observe at a Genomic Counselling clinic which is one of the OCEs of this rotation; “Attend a clinic as an observer and explain your role to the patient”. I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to see how genomic councelling works and get some more clinical experience. I contacted our genomic counselling team, they were very accommodating and agreed for me to observe at an adult endocrine clinic. The majority of endocrine conditions referred to genomic councelling involved panel testing so we thought it would be easier to explain what a bioinformatician does in that context.
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.