Is there evidence of a genetic counselor workforce shortage?
No, in fact discussion of a shortage likely originated 30 years ago, and focused on genetics specialists – not genetic counselors, specifically. While medical geneticists have contracted as a profession, the opposite is true of certified genetic counselors (CGCs).
Here are the facts: There are 5,629 CGCs today.
Source: American Board of Genetic Counseling, 2021
A Growth Trajectory
Since 1999, the last 20 years, the profession has undergone significant growth, increasing from 1,155 to 5,629 CGCs.
The profession has grown by 100% since 2010.
The profession is expected to see similar consistent growth in the next 10 years as additional training programs are accredited and existing programs add training slots.
The shortage is overstated in terms of today’s demand, and in the coming years will be completely inaccurate unless demand spikes.
There is over 1 CGC per 75,000 population. Excluding nonclinical CGCs, there is about 1 clinical CGC per 100,000 population. Many nonclinical CGCs do have some interaction with patients, or provide genetics support to physicians and other healthcare providers, supporting the provision of genetic services to patients.
Access to Genetic Counselors
Approximately 50% of clinical CGCs have a third patient appointment available within a week. Close to 90% of CGCs specializing in oncology report that they can see a stat patient with 3 days, most on the same day. i
Over 60% of CGCs report that they use more than one service delivery model to interact with their patients (face to face, telehealth, and group), allowing a broader reach and efficient service delivery. ii The use of telehealth has expanded dramatically during the COVID-19 pandemic. iii
While there are issues in accessing CGCs for face-to-face appointments in some areas of the country or at specific institutions, other options are widely available. Patients often have the option of accessing a CGC through a different institution in the same metropolitan area with lower wait times, or utilizing a telehealth genetic counseling service. Geographic areas without genetic counselors can be served easily by telehealth genetic counselor services. On an institutional level, wait times often can be decreased by introducing more efficient delivery models and modernizing institutional policies.
Pending federal legislation, the Access to Genetic Counselor Services Act, would provide Medicare recognition of CGCs and CMS reimbursement. State licensure can also improve access to genetic counselor services.
Find a Genetic Counselor
Patients and referring healthcare practitioners can visit findageneticcounselor.org to search for genetic counselors who are offering telehealth services or are located near you.
i. 2019 Professional Status Survey, National Society of Genetic Counselors
ii. 2019 Professional Status Survey, National Society of Genetic Counselors
iii. 2020 Professional Status Survey, National Society of Genetic Counselors