Roles of Genetic Counselors in South Africa
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Genetic counseling is a growing health profession in South Africa. Training (set up in 1988) and registration are in place, but job creation remains challenging. The aim of the present study was to investigate the roles played by genetic counselors in the provision of genetic services, in South Africa. A questionnaire comprising items on the types of roles they performed was constructed and counselors were asked to make the log-books, in which they recorded their daily counseling activities, available. A check list was drawn up so that relevant information could be collected systematically from these log-books. Then departmental statistics were accessed from the two universities providing genetic services and genetic counselor training. Structured interviews were conducted with the genetic counselors (16 of 23 participated), and data were collected from their completed questionnaires, log-books and the departmental statistics, for the years 2007 and 2008. These data were analyzed and the findings showed that the counselors counseled about one third (39 %) of all the cases seen at genetic clinics per annum, and the total numbers were increasing. They counseled for 57 different genetic disorders, and their clients represented the range of local ethnic groups. They also had educational, research, marketing and administrative roles. They expected to expand these roles and advance the profession in future. Genetic counselors are versatile, playing several significant roles. As these become better recognized, demand for their services should increase, jobs should be created and the service expanded.
KeywordsGenetic counseling Genetic counselors Training South Africa Roles
The genetic counselors who gave up their time to participate in this study, Dr M Urban who provided statistics on the genetic services at UCT, and the Mellon Foundation for funding JGRK’s post at the University of the Witwatersrand, are acknowledged.
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