A Day in the Life of a Genetic Counselor

June 13, 2013

I won’t bother you with the part of my day before I arrive at work. Hint: it involves waking up at 5am with two cats sitting on my person, and single-handedly getting two elementary school boys up and to the bus stop on time. I may or may not have the good fortune of obtaining some sort of caffeinated beverage during this time frame.

Arriving at work, I fire up the computer and look for any urgent notes or phone calls that need to be made. If my colleague Nichole has been in the office on the day prior, she will have left me very clearly written instructions on brightly-colored sticky notes (she knows I’m a bit slow in the head some mornings), which I love more than I can say.

The schedule for a genetic counselor is unpredictable. Our staff has no control over what proportion of our patients have genetic-specific issues at any given time. Five patients in a day would be considered a reasonable amount, allowing for plenty of time with each patient, but leaving enough time to do the paperwork. I’ve had days with zero patients (yay catch up time!), and the occasional day with 8-10, ouch. It all works out in the end.

Next step: focus on the patient. Ahhh, this is better. Every single day I learn something from a woman that is new, amazing, or sometimes powerfully emotional. Sometimes I have a patient who requests volumes of numbers and statistical information in a flurry of questions and answers, and other times a woman may request very specific pieces of information, already having an intuitive idea what type of testing she would like, or not like. Sometimes it’s all business, sometimes things spiral into chit-chatting and laughing. As long as I’ve assisted in a patient getting the type of information she’s looking for with as little stress as possible, I’m happy. Hopefully she is, too.

Then, I check on the size of the stack of charts waiting for me. This is often dictation needing to be signed, or results requiring a phone call. I typically pretend to grumble and complain to our medical records staff about the size of said stack. This is an important part of my day and hopefully they enjoy hearing me whine too…

Intersperse the chatting with the front-office staff, nurses, doctors, sonographers, my fellow counselors Gail and Nichole, and anyone else nearby, the eating of snack-size candy bars, and the occasional hug for an emotional situation and my day is complete.

Ashley Solomon-Nelson, M.S., C.G.C