Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 20, Issue 3, pp 217–230 | Cite as

A Model of Professional Development for Practicing Genetic Counselors: Adaptation of Communication Skills Training in Oncology

  • Kate L. Dunlop
  • Kristine Barlow-Stewart
  • Phyllis Butow
  • Paul Heinrich
Professional Issues


Ongoing professional development for practicing genetic counselors is critical in maintaining best practice. Communication skills training (CST) workshops for doctors in oncology, utilizing trained actors in role plays, have been implemented for many years to improve patient-centred communication. This model was adapted to provide professional development in counseling skills for practicing genetic counselors, already highly trained in counseling skills. Detailed evidence based scenarios were developed. Evaluation of participants’ experience and perceived outcomes on practice included surveys immediately post workshops (2002, 2004, 2005, 2008 (×2); n = 88/97), 2–5 years later (2007; n = 21/38) and a focus group (2007; n = 7). All rated workshops as effective training. Aspects highly valued included facilitator feedback, actors rather than role-playing with peers and being able to stop and try doing things differently. Perceived outcomes included the opportunity to reflect on practice; bring focus to communication; motivation and confidence. The high level of satisfaction is a strong endorsement for ongoing communication skills training in this format as part of professional development.


Genetic counselor professional development Communication skills training 



Special thanks to the genetic counselors and social workers who assisted in the development of scenarios, facilitation of the workshops and who participated in the research. As part of the Cancer Council NSW Strategic Research Partnership (STREP) grant, funding was provided for individual costs for outreach genetic counselors to attend the 2008 full day workshop. The grant also covered the costs of the 2008 conference workshop.


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Copyright information

© National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kate L. Dunlop
    • 1
  • Kristine Barlow-Stewart
    • 1
    • 2
  • Phyllis Butow
    • 3
  • Paul Heinrich
    • 4
  1. 1.Centre for Genetics Education NSW HealthRoyal North Shore HospitalSydneyAustralia
  2. 2.Sydney Medical SchoolUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  3. 3.School of PsychologyUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia
  4. 4.Pam McLean Cancer Communications CentreUniversity of SydneySydneyAustralia

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