Angela Krutish, Xiao-Qing Liu, Christine Kelly, Shannon R. Chin, Jessica N. Hartley
Genetic assistant positions are now widely integrated in genetic services to address genetic counselor shortages and ultimately improve efficiency. While over 40% of genetic counselors report working with a genetic assistant (“NSGC Professional Status Survey: Work Environment,” 2022), there is limited information about the genetic assistant workforce. The present study surveyed 164 genetic assistants and 139 individuals with experience working with genetic assistants (specifically genetic counselors, residents, geneticists, and administrative staff). Information was collected about genetic assistant demographics, positions, roles and responsibilities, and career paths. The data revealed that the genetic assistant workforce is demographically similar to the genetic counselor workforce and that most genetic assistants intend to pursue a career in genetic counseling. The genetic assistant positions were heterogeneous in terms of the roles and responsibilities assigned, even when separated by work setting. Lastly, participants reported that there were at least 144 genetic assistants across their institutions, a number that has likely grown since the time of the survey. The findings from this study highlight important opportunities for future research and focus, especially development of a scope of practice and competencies for genetic assistants, as well as the potential to use genetic assistant positions as an avenue to improve diversity within the genetic counseling workforce.
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