There are many medical conditions that are transmitted from parents to children. Such conditions/diseases are caused due to abnormal genes/chromosomes and are transferred when the individual is a fetus, i.e before birth. There are many such genetic disorders and most of them are very rare, happening to one in thousands or even a million individuals. Though not all genetic disorders are hereditary, all heritable disorders are genetically induced.
When people know that they have a genetic disorder, they are usually concerned whether the condition is heritable, i.e when they will have children, would the condition persist in their children too. If so, are there some ways to avoid the condition, some medications or treatments that would prevent their children from suffering from it? Here is when a genetic counselor comes into the picture.
A genetic counselor is a medical advisor who helps people with their questions regarding an inherited disorder, its consequences and chances of it getting transmitted and the ways to avoid the condition from passing in the latter generations. A genetic counselor studies the medical history of the patients, solves queries of couples with such disorder who wish to have children and explain how their condition can affect the health of their children.
Key Responsibilities of a Genetic Counselor
Every institution has its set of regulations for the duties and responsibilities of their professionals and so the responsibilities of a genetic counselor also change somewhat with different institutions. Here, we provide a general account of the key genetic counselor responsibilities as seen commonly in most places they work:
Interact with the Client
The counselor is required to interact with the clients personally, understanding their family history, drawing information regarding their psychological and social history and developing counseling agenda on which the counselor and the client agree upon mutually.
Be the Key Advisor
The counselor has to deal with a variety of clients coming from diverse socio-economic and educational backgrounds, conveying them all the relevant information about their medical and genetic conditions and some other technical information regarding the diagnosis, treatment options available and the proper medication to follow.
The genetic counselor is required to document the case information properly and concisely, many times it is also required of him/her to convey this information orally.
Assessment of Risk Factors
From the study of various lab tests and biopsies conducted, the genetic counselor is required to assess the genetic risk factors and inform patients regarding the steps to be taken further in the treatment.
Apply Analytical Skills for Counseling
Many times, the cases are emotionally disturbing and so attempts need to be applied to deal with the situation in an analytical way. The counselor needs to be very strong mentally so that an emotional support can be provided to the patient.
Successful Case Management Skills
The counselor should demonstrate good management skills and look into a case by balancing professionalism and emotional support in equal proportions.
Take Steps to Improve the Counseling Sessions
Through understanding of many cases and good experience in the field with a diverse nature of clients, the counselor needs to personally find out ways to improve the counseling methods and modify future sessions in the best way possible. Use a good range of proper interviewing techniques and questions so as to get the right and important information out.
Advocate the Client and be the Prime Source of Help
The counselor is required to establish a cordial yet professional rapport with the patients to properly assess their problems and find out the best way out of it, pertaining to the patientís personal choices and decisions.
Promote the Patients to Open Up for Better Counseling
It is a counselorís duty to make the patients comfortable and make them speak up about their medical problems, family history and their future plans regarding family planning in a non-coercive and unbiased way.
Educational Qualifications and Other Skills Required
The genetic counselor responsibilities require that the person should essentially possess a masterís degree in genetics and a specialization in counseling techniques. Many times, the candidate with genetics major or having specialization in other relevant sciences is given on-job training for various counseling techniques. Also, experience in this field that comes along with real work in the field helps a lot in making the candidate well versed with other possible ways to make the counseling sessions much better.
Good interaction and communication skills are a must. Much of the time of a genetic counselor is spent with their patients and so a person who likes to interact with a diverse form of population and that too in a proper, cordial way can do proper justice to this position.
The working environment for this position varies widely. Mostly, the candidate is required to work in a laboratory, conducting various tests and analyzing them. They are also required to interact with their patients personally and so usually have a personal office. No job related travelling is required mostly and the job is many times monotonous too.
Job Prospects and Career Opportunities
The field has good growth. Work is always abundant for a good counselor who profits even more from mouth to mouth publicity. There is no limit to the number of patients in private practice while even when working with a medical body, there are huge chances of getting better career prospects. Genetic counselors earn a decent salary that could range anywhere between 60,000 to 65,000 dollars on a yearly basis when working for a private firm. With personal counseling sessions, there are good chances of earning a lot more.