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Making Sense of It for Patients

As more and more genomics findings make their way into the clinic, there's an increasing demand for genetic counselors, Nature Jobs reports.

Many people who pursue a career in genetic counseling are like Jehannine Austin, it adds. As a PhD student studying the genetics of schizophrenia, she realized she wanted to help patients and their families understand the implications of such genetic changes. After getting her degree, Austin enrolled in a genetic counselor training program.

The first training program in started in 1969 at Sarah Lawrence College, and it and newer programs combine biology and psychology to prepare counselors to interpret genetic testing results for patients.

But as testing has gotten more complex, so has the counselor's job. "Previously, you knew the condition you were testing for when the family arrived, and you could counsel them on it," says Sarah Scollon, a genetic counselor at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. "Now you're throwing a wider net and can't do that kind of specific counseling up front; that now comes more at the back end."

This boom in sequencing, Nature Jobs adds has created the need for more genetic counselors. And counselors are increasing filling a greater variety of roles, from ones working with patients to performing research, developing educational materials, and working on policy questions.