Emma O'Donoghue, Marion McAllister, Roberta Rizzo
Families in Ireland often wait over 1 year to see a genetic counselor (GC). This qualitative study aimed to explore the views of families who received a diagnosis of 22q11DS in Ireland regarding the need for timely access to genetic counseling at the point of diagnosis. Twenty participants were recruited through the ‘22q Ireland’ support group, giving a response rate of approximately 10% of the total support group members. Semi-structured interviews were conducted online and by telephone which explored experiences of receiving diagnoses, medical care, genetic counseling, mental health, and coping with the diagnosis. Interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed using thematic analysis. The experiences of 20 participants were classified into five main themes: Receiving Diagnosis, Interactions with Healthcare Professionals (HCPs, excluding GCs), Medical Care, Information, and Impact of Condition. Participants reported receiving diagnoses for their children in a sub-optimal manner due to inappropriate settings and insufficient information, support, and pre-test counseling. Parents reported feeling responsible for managing their child's complex and fragmented medical care. Participants reported insufficient empathy and little awareness of 22q11DS among HCPs. Participants perceived genetic counseling to be associated with family planning and reported delayed, if any, access to services. Mental health was a particular worry among participants. Conferences about 22q11DS are the main source of information for parents. Participants reported a range of emotions after diagnosis and described the family impact. The findings suggest both an association between HCPs' poor understanding of 22q11DS and the perceived lack of empathy from HCPs and fragmented medical care. There is an identified need for advocacy of the GC profession in Ireland to support these families. Increased awareness of 22q11DS among HCPs and the development of a coordinated care pathway for 22q11DS, with timely access to genetic counseling, may improve care and lead to better outcomes.
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