Now more than ever, people are engaged in their healthcare decisions and have greater access to information about the role their genetics play. Because of that increased involvement, they are sometimes presented with complicated information – like genetic test results – that can’t be easily interpreted if you’re not a genetics expert. That’s where we, genetic counselors, come into the picture.
Genetic counselors are healthcare professionals who provide personalized help and information about your genetic health. With Nov. 9 marking the first-ever Genetic Counselor Awareness Day, let’s take a closer look at our growing and evolving field. Below are three key components of a genetic counselor’s role in the healthcare process, further explained through short videos featuring NSGC members.
Educating patients and healthcare providers
Genetic counselors are an integral part of the healthcare team and work collaboratively with you and your doctor. As experts at interpreting and explaining complex genetic information, genetic counselors help everyone from healthcare providers to patients understand the impact of their family history and genetic makeup. Because genetic information is often difficult to understand, genetic counselors act as translators and help build a bridge between science and the patient.
Advocating for patients and their families
Genetic counselors advocate for patients and their families in various ways, including serving on federal, state or local healthcare advisories, working with genetics laboratories and companies to present the patient perspective and helping establish patient advocacy groups to empower patients to connect and share resources. By advocating on behalf of their patients, genetic counselors are able to help promote the accessibility of genetic services that are an increasingly important component of good healthcare.
Enhancing the future of genetic services
In addition to advocating for patients, genetic counselors advocate for their profession. They train and mentor genetic counseling students, and serve as professional resources for other genetic counselors and healthcare colleagues. Genetic counselors also conduct research on how people use genetic information and how to deliver that information to patients in a way that empowers them rather than overwhelms them. Working in public health, genetic counselors focus on improving access to their services, as well as how genetic services fits within the overall healthcare system.
If you think you could benefit from genetic counseling, use the Find a Genetic Counselor tool to find a genetic counselor in your area.