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J Community Genet. 2013 Jan;4(1):69-75. doi: 10.1007/s12687-012-0119-8. Epub 2012 Sep 28.

A study of the practice of individual genetic counsellors and genetic nurses in Europe.

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1
Faculty of Health, Education and Society, Plymouth University, Wellington Road, Taunton, TA1 5YD, UK, heather.skirton@plymouth.ac.uk.

Abstract

Advances in genetics have meant that the genetic services are now accessed by increasing numbers of patients. One way of dealing with the pressure on services without jeopardising patient care is the inclusion of nonmedical genetic counsellors and genetic nurses in the genetic services team. However, a cohesive approach to the profession has been lacking in Europe, and an educational programme and registration system for European practitioners is required. The aim of this study was to ascertain the type of work undertaken by genetic nurses and counsellors in Europe and the context in which they practised. We used a cross-sectional survey design to collect data from 213 practitioners, either genetic nurses or genetic counsellors, from 18 European countries. Respondents completed the survey online, and data were analysed using descriptive statistics and cross-tabulations. The majority were involved in undertaking the initial contact with the patient (89.9 %) and explaining the genetic test to the patient (91.5 %), while 74 % ordered tests and 91.4 % obtained informed consent for such tests. Psychological support before and after genetic testing was provided by 80.2 % of respondents, and 82.1 % reported regularly managing cases autonomously. While the genetic counselling profession is barely established in some countries, counsellors are able to contribute substantially to patient care as part of the multi-disciplinary team. Further efforts to establish the profession at the European level through a registration process will enhance the confidence in this new group of allied health professionals.

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