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Role and practice evolution for genetic counseling in the genomic era: The experience of Australian and UK genetics practitioners


Abstract Facilitating informed decision-making regarding genetic testing is a core component of genetic counseling practice. Internationally, genetic testing is shifting toward gene panels and genomic testing, including whole exome and whole genome sequencing to improve diagnostic yield and cost-effectiveness. This study explored genetics practitioners’ current experience with panels and genomic tests and the associated evolution of genetic counseling practice. Genetics practitioners with genomic testing experience, were purposively invited to participate in a semi-structured telephone interview and to snowball the invitation to colleagues. Interviews conducted with participants residing in Australia (n = 9) and the UK (n = 5) were transcribed and analyzed using an inductive thematic approach. Three themes emerged: (a) Role delineation: current roles, future roles, and the influence of increasing complexity; (b) The evolving spectrum of practice: blurred boundaries between research and clinical services; impact on facilitation of informed consent; and return of results strategies; and (c) Policy and governance needs: equality of access; achieving consistent variant interpretation, reporting, and responsibility for review; managing incidental findings; and professional regulation for Australian genetic counselors. These exploratory data highlight that genetic counseling practice and the essential role of facilitating informed consent are evolving but remain patient-centered, with core skills underpinning practitioners’ capacity to adapt.

Type Journal
Authors Dwarte T, Barlow-Stewart K, O'Shea R, Dinger ME, Terrill B.
Responsible Garvan Author Bronwyn Terrill
Publisher Name Journal of Genetic Counseling
Published Date 2019-04-09
Published Volume 28
Published Issue 2
Published Pages 378-387
Status Published in-print
DOI doi:10.1002/jgc4.1053
URL link to publisher's version
OpenAccess link to author's accepted manuscript version