What Does A Genetic Counselor Do?

Technological advances in the field of medicine will fuel a huge demand for genetic counselors. Specifically, developments in the area of genomics and innovations done in laboratory testing have widened the scope of testing and analyses for genetic counselors.

The main task of genetic counselors is to educate and provide support to patients and families who are struggling with or are most likely going to deal with a genetic condition. They work with different types of patients ranging from pregnant women to newborn babies to families with a history of mental disorders, cancer or other genetic abnormalities. Genetic counselors enlighten their clients about their condition and teach them ways to adapt to their situation as well as point them to resources or services that would help them cope with the problem effectively.

Genetic counselors take down a patient’s medical history in their first visit. In order to get a complete profile of patients who are suspected of having a particular genetic disorder, they might ask questions about their health, inquire about the medical conditions faced by other members of the family and even get information on their ethnic heritage. The information gathered during this interview is crucial in giving genetic counselors a clear idea of the health of the patient and in identifying what the problem is.

In order to arrive at a definite diagnosis, genetic counselors may recommend further tests and the necessary laboratory work to be performed for this purpose. They explain important details about these tests to their clients and their families so the latter can understand why the tests need to be done and what conditions it can or cannot identify. They also explain the procedures and provide the length of time before results can be obtained. When the results are in, genetic counselors interpret them so that an accurate diagnosis can be provided. They would then recommend the next steps that clients should undertake.

Writing comprehensive reports about a patient’s condition for both the patients and their families as well as for their attending medical doctors is also part of their work. To do this correctly, genetic counselors need to review the patient’s medical history and the results of their laboratory tests. They would also perform additional research if necessary to ensure accuracy.

After all the laboratory results have come out and a diagnosis has been made, genetic counselors, together with the rest of the medical team come up with a treatment plan to be followed. In addition to medication, treatment often involves educating the patients and the rest of the members of the family on the social, psychological and emotional effects of the condition and ways to manage it.

When they are not meeting clients, it is also part of the job of genetic counselors to continue to keep themselves updated on the latest developments in their field. They read journals, websites and other resources so they are kept abreast of the latest findings and information about various genetic abnormalities. Some would even perform independent research on a particular disorder so they can contribute to the fast-growing body of knowledge in this exciting field. Other genetic counselors also hold teaching responsibilities in colleges and universities in addition to their clinical work.

Career Spotlight: Genetic Counselor

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