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Genetic Counselling MSc

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  • Objectives
    To provide the academic and vocational training for professional genetic counsellors to work in the UK and abroad To equip students with the necessary skills to enable them to contribute to research and development of the genetic counselling profession To promote an awareness of the importance of the psychosocial impact of human genetic technology among patients, health and social care professionals, and the wider society
  • Entry requirements
    Entry requirements: Honours degree, preferably in one of the biological sciences, nursing or psychology, plus a minimum 6 months full-time equivalent working in a caring role.
  • Academic Title
    Genetic Counselling MSc
  • Course description
    Course description

    This programme was established in 1992 as the first training programme for genetic counsellors in Europe. It aims to:

    -provide academic and vocational training for professional genetic counsellors to work in the UK and overseas
    -equip students with the necessary skills to enable them to contribute to the research and development of the profession
    -promote awareness of the importance of the psychosocial impact of human genetic technology among patients, health and social care professionals and the wider society

    The programme has expanded its student intake with support from a Department of Health initiative to expand training capacity for NHS-destined genetic counsellors.

    The past two decades have seen a massive increase in the demand for genetic counselling services due to the significant advances in genetic science. Although accurate genetic counselling relies on a firm medical diagnosis, accepted definitions of genetic counselling also emphasise the educative and counselling components.

    In the UK, most genetic counselling is provided in Regional Genetic Services by multidisciplinary teams including medically trained specialist clinical geneticists and genetic counsellor colleagues. Genetic counsellors contribute particularly to the educative and psychosocial aspects of genetic counselling. There is a professional organisation, the Association of Genetic Nurses and Counsellors (AGNC), which is a sub-group of the British Society for Human Genetics. This organisation has implemented a registration mechanism for genetic counsellors in the UK, which graduates of this programme are eligible to apply for.

    It is run in the Academic Unit of Medial Genetics and Regional Genetic Services, based at St Marys Hospital, Manchester. Content is linked to practice-based competencies as defined by relevant registration bodies e.g. UK Genetic Counsellor Registration Board, and the American Board of Genetic Counselling.

    The course has 3 components:

    -taught course units (75 credits)
    -placements (30 credits)
    -research (75 credits) leading to a dissertation.

    Special features

    The programme has links with the graduate programme in genetic counselling at the Murdoch Institute in Melbourne, Australia, and there are opportunities for student exchanges between the two programmes.

    Module details
    The programme consists of the following course units, with teaching taking place two days a week:

    -Human Genetics
    -Clinical Genetics
    -Research Skills
    -Counselling Skills
    -Care and Counselling in Health Settings
    -Ethics in Genetic Practice
    -Education and Communications in Genetics
    -Advanced Genetic Counselling
    -Students also undertake a research project leading to a dissertation.

    There is a two-day week placement in the first semester of the first year (16-week block) and two twelve-week full-time placements in a clinical genetics department in the second year.

    Course content for year 1

    Clinical Genetics (15 credits)
    Looks at genetic disorders affecting children and adults and at the medical, genetic and psychosocial aspects of specific disorders. 

    Students complete two essays discussing management of hypothetical cases and sit a 90-minute case-based exam in June.

    Research Skills
    A theoretical and practical course unit in the first semester, designed to familiarise students with research design and statistical techniques relevant to students' research projects and dissertations. Assessment is through participation in the seminars and satisfactory completion of a research project protocol.

    Human Genetics (15 credits)
    Comprises 20 lectures in total. Covers human molecular genetics and risk calculation in mendelian and non-mendelian disorders. All students sit a 90-minute paper. 

    Year 1: Genetic Counselling (15 credits)
    Counselling Skills
    An introduction to the theory and practice of counselling consisting of ten 1¿-hour sessions. It acts as a foundation to the Advanced Genetic Counselling course unit in the second year. Contains practical training in interview technique through discussion of demonstration video tapes and student participation in role-play and taped interview. Students are assessed through their preparation for, and participation in, each session and completion of a counselling essay in the second semester. 

    Care and Counselling in Health Settings
    A seminar and discussion course unit lasting 30 hours taught in the first and second semesters. Aims to familiarise students with the wide impact of genetics disorders and of the role of other professionals and the voluntary sector in providing services for these families. Assessment is based on satisfactory preparation for seminars, including two oral presentations. One is an assigned paper and the second is a case report.

    Course content for year 2
    Education and Ethics in Genetic Practice (15 credits)
    Education and Communication in Genetics
    Consists of 10 sessions in the first semester, and looks at methods of communicating genetics facts. Verbal and written methods are explored in the contexts of counselling for individual families, lay education and professional presentations. Students are assessed on communication skills and on written work, including the production of a lay leaflet, a counselling aid, a set of teaching slides, and 3 summary letters to families.

    Ethics in Genetic Practice
    Is currently organised as a 3 day joint residential course with the Cardiff MSc programme. The principles of healthcare ethics and ethical and legal issues in practice and research are reviewed. Sessions include students' presentation of assigned readings and cases from their own placements that raise ethical issues, as well as group discussions. Students are assessed through their preparation for, and participation during, the course.

    Year 2: Genetics Counselling (15 credits)
    Taught throughout the first and second semesters, the theory and practice of counselling in the clinical genetic context is explored in 25 seminars. Sessions are structured around students' presentation of assigned readings, feedback on audio-visual tapes made by students in their genetic clinic placements, video and live role-play. Topics include:

    -breaking bad news
    -predictive test counselling
    -reproductive decision-making
    -counselling after termination for abnormality
    -family-centred approach to genetic counselling

    Students are assessed through their preparation and presentation of two assigned papers from the literature, preparation and presentation of two clinical tapes and participation in role-play and discussion

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