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Masters Degrees (Genetic Counsellor)

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The primary aim of this course is to train graduates interested in the clinical application of advances in human genetics and genomics so that they can provide and critically evaluate genetic and genomic counselling services. Read more
The primary aim of this course is to train graduates interested in the clinical application of advances in human genetics and genomics so that they can provide and critically evaluate genetic and genomic counselling services.

You will be given a thorough grounding in human genomics, genetics, genetic analysis and bioinformatics, in communication and counselling skills, and in the skills required for you to work as part of a multi-disciplinary team providing genetic and genomic counselling for families. 

The course is particularly suitable for students interested in pursuing a career as a genetic counsellor. It is designed to meet the UK Genetic Counsellor Registration Board (GCRB) Set ‘A’ educational requirement to submit a Notification of Intention to Register with the GCRB (see http://www.gcrb.org.uk/), as well as the European Board of Medical Genetics (EBMG Genetic Counsellors division) educational requirement to submit a Notification of Intention to Register with the EBMG.

Distinctive features:

The MSc in Genetic and Genomic Counselling is an innovative part-time, largely distance learning course.  Being a ‘blended learning’ course, this opens up our well established genetic counsellor training expertise to a European and international audience, as it removes the need for you to relocate to Cardiff for full time study to train as a genetic counsellor.  Instead, you will attend short intensive teaching blocks in Wales (UK) and engage in the online learning components throughout the remainder of each year.  Approved placement learning in your own location is also undertaken in year 2. 

We are committed to developing your practice in evidence-based genetic and genomic counselling, with a strong emphasis on preparing you to contribute to clinical and health services research in genetic and genomic counselling.  The programme team includes world-class researchers in genetic and genomic counselling and counselling skills are taught by an expert counsellor.

Structure

The MSc programme consists of two stages: The taught stage which lasts for a total of 24 months and the dissertation stage R which lasts for a further 12 months, following completion of the taught stages.  The total normal duration to complete the full MSc programme is three academic years, from the date of initial registration on the programme.

A placement module runs throughout Year 2 of the course.  This is supported by significant patient interaction.  Access to and concrete plans for your genetic counselling placement is a criterion for selection at interview. 

Core modules:

Introduction to Healthcare
Introduction to Genetic and Genomic Counselling
Counselling and Communication Skills
Research Methods
Introduction to Genetics, Genomics, Molecular Science and Bioinformatics
Applied Genetics and Bioinformatics in Clinical Care
Advanced Genetic and Genomic Counselling
Placement: Genetic and Genomic Counselling
Dissertation: Genetic and Genomic Counselling

Teaching

You will be taught through a combination of face-to-face and online lectures, tutorials, seminars, self-directed study and experiential learning on placement.

Lectures take a range of forms but generally they aim to provide a broad structure for each subject, to introduce key concepts, and to convey relevant up-to-date information.  In tutorials and seminars, you’ll have the opportunity to discuss particular genetic counselling and genomic counselling topics, to consolidate and receive feedback on your individual learning and to develop skills in oral presentation.  Tutorials will enable you to make individual contributions to group study, for example by summarising a particular genetic condition or your dissertation project for the group.

You will have the opportunity to practise and develop counselling, intellectual, team-working and presentational skills by participating in diverse learning activities, such as solving clinical problems, small-group discussions, debates, oral presentations, independent research tasks and written assignments as well as your practical placement activities in year 2. 

Assessment

You will be assessed through a combination of means including written work (blogs, essays), presentations, reflective pieces, video skills assessment and a dissertation.

Career Prospects

Career prospects for graduates with an appropriately accredited MSc in Genetic and Genomic Counselling are excellent.  In the UK and in the US, the demand for genetic counsellors has increased in recent years.  The US has seen, over the past 2—3 years, a rise in job postings from about 300/year (mirroring US graduate numbers) to over 600 in 2015.  Proportionately similar increases in job postings are being seen in the UK.  Graduates from existing UK MSc in Genetic (and Genomic) courses will be insufficient to meet the needs of the UK NHS over the next few years, as many UK genetic counsellors are approaching retirement.  The Transnational Alliance of Genetic Counsellors (a partnership of genetic counsellor educators from eighteen countries) have strongly emphasized the need for training more genetic counsellors to practice internationally, specifically across the EU, Asia and South America.

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The MSc in Genetic and Genomic Counselling is designed to give students a working knowledge of the principles and practice of Genetic Counselling which will qualify them to practice as Genetic and Genomic Counsellors. Read more
The MSc in Genetic and Genomic Counselling is designed to give students a working knowledge of the principles and practice of Genetic Counselling which will qualify them to practice as Genetic and Genomic Counsellors. The programme will be delivered by University of Glasgow staff in collaboration with NHS staff from the West of Scotland Genetics Service, so that a current perspective on both laboratory diagnostics and clinical services will be obtained. This programme is accredited by the UK Genetic Counsellor Registration Board.

Why this programme

-◾Teaching is based at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital (QEUH), which includes adult services, children’s services and maternity services, as well as one of the largest diagnostic laboratories in Europe, and a new, purpose-built teaching and learning facility. The close collaboration between University and NHS staff ensures that the MSc in Genetic and Genomic Counselling provides a completely up-to-date representation of genetic services.
◾Counselling and psychology theoretical and research-focused courses are delivered by University staff trained in psychology, providing a firm foundation for the subsequent acquisition of knowledge and skills in genetic counselling facilitated by GCRB-registered Genetic Counsellors.
◾The University of Glasgow Medical Genetics Teaching Staff won the 2014 UK-wide Prospects Postgraduate Awards for the category of Best Postgraduate Teaching Team (Science, Technology & Engineering), to recognise and reward excellence and good practice; they were also finalists in the 2013 awards and are finalists in the category of "Outstanding support for students" in The Herald Higher Education Awards for Scotland in association with UWS 2016.
◾You will develop your skills in problem solving, evaluation and interpretation of diagnostic data, communication of the results of genome testing to patients, literature searches, scientific writing, oral presentations, poster presentations and team working.
◾The widely used textbook “Essential Medical Genetics” is co-authored by a member of the core teaching team, Professor Edward Tobias.

Programme structure

Component courses are as follows:

Genetic Disease in Clinical Practice

This course is designed in collaboration with the West of Scotland Genetics Service to give students a working knowledge of the principles and practice of Clinical Genetics which will allow them to evaluate, choose and interpret appropriate genetic investigations for individuals and families with genetic disease, and explore the links between genotype and phenotype.

Case Investigations in Medical Genetics

Students will work in groups to investigate complex clinical case scenarios: decide appropriate testing, analyse results from genetic tests, reach diagnoses where appropriate and, with reference to the literature, generate a concise and critical group report.

Distress or disorder: reactions to a medical diagnosis

Note: this 10 credit course may be taken by visiting students, for example as professional development.

This course outlines the process of psychosocial adjustment to a diagnosis or test result allowing participants to establish if and when a distress reaction develops into an adjustment disorder. The implications of diagnosis are explored and evidence considered allowing informed decisions about appropriate referrals to other agencies.

Patient empowerment: supporting decisions relating to new diagnoses

Note: this 10 credit course may be taken by visiting students, for example as professional development.

This course reflects on evidence and experience to explore the psychological and social impact of a diagnosis, or illness, and provides strategies to support resilience and coping in patients. Factors related to lived experience, personal beliefs and values, culture, adjustment processes, decision-making, misconceptions, secrecy and guilt are considered to equip participants in the promotion of patient-centred care.

Effective listening and communication skills

Note: this 10 credit course may be taken by visiting students, for example as professional development.

With a focus on experiential learning and student led study, this course outlines the role of counselling skills to facilitate adjustment and to allow an individual to come to terms with change in a safe way to minimise impact. The focus will be on the theory supporting counselling, developing key listening and communication skills and on establishing reflective practice.

Genetic counselling in clinical practice

This course is designed in collaboration with the West of Scotland Clinical Service, and will be delivered by NHS staff, to provide students with in depth understanding of the practical skills required in genetic counselling. The course will facilitate development of appropriate critical understanding, reflective practice and skills in relation to genetic counselling for providing accurate complex genetic information for patients and their families.

Social science research methods

The research methods course will focus on developing students’ research skills primarily in questionnaire-based qualitative and quantitative observational research methods and students will be introduced to ethics procedures for the college of MVLS.

Community placements 1 & 2

These placements, for 16 days and 20 days respectively, will each take place in one or more care settings for individuals with complex needs (adults or children or both) to enable students to gain insight into effects of complex needs on affected individuals and on their family.

Genetic counselling placement 1 & 2

These placements, for eight weeks and six weeks respectively, in different genetics centres will allow students to observe clinical practice in a variety of contexts, and to undertake relevant tasks under supervision within a clinical team that is delivering a genetic service, to enable the student to develop their own skills as a future genetic counsellor. Following each placement students will discuss and share experiences, facilitated by one of the NHS lead team and a counselling supervisor, to further develop their ability to deal with practical and emotional challenges in genetic counselling.

Clinical genomics

This course will provide an overview of the clinical applications of genomic approaches to human disorders, particularly in relation to clinical genetics, discussing the methods and capabilities of the new technologies. Tuition and hands-on experience in data analysis will be provided, including the interpretation of next generation sequencing reports.

Career prospects

The programme aims to provide students with skills to work as Genetic Counsellors. This programme is accredited by the Genetic Counsellor Registration Board (GCRB) producing graduates who are eligible for entry as a ‘trainee genetic counsellor’.

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Genetics and genomics have become an integral part of the healthcare service. Our modern programme, which we’re constantly adapting to reflect professional and technological changes, will advance your skills, knowledge and insight in the challenging sector of genetic healthcare. Read more
Genetics and genomics have become an integral part of the healthcare service. Our modern programme, which we’re constantly adapting to reflect professional and technological changes, will advance your skills, knowledge and insight in the challenging sector of genetic healthcare. Study part-time over three years and choose the modules you want to study. You’ll leave fully equipped to provide more effective, efficient and better quality practice for the patients who rely on you.

Key features

-Steer your career in the direction you want. We offer a wide range of modules, so you can choose to group modules together to create the combination that suits your previous education and experience and your career aspirations. Focused themes include practical genetics, genetic science and counselling skills.
-Engage with a course specifically designed to address the needs of professionals wishing to develop their careers in genetic counselling or genetic nursing.
-Learn from research-active staff at the forefront of knowledge, conducting research into Applied Health Genetics.
-Study four core modules shared by all our pathway awards: Health and Social Care Futures, Advancing Research Knowledge in Practice 1 and 2, and the dissertation.
-Benefit from the flexibility our programme offers. You can take much of the course by distance learning. Modules taught face-to-face (such as counselling skills) are delivered in short, intensive blocks to enable you to complete them with minimum travel and time away from your work.
-Balance work and further education with our programme by studying part-time over three years.
-Our Genetic Science modules and the Counselling Skills modules are designed to satisfy the requirements of the Genetic Counsellor Registration Board for UK genetic counsellor registration.
-Achieve the European Core Competences for genetic nurses and genetic counsellors.
-Choose to study the Counselling Skills module and update and enhance your counselling skills.
-Develop practical skills and increase knowledge on all genetics modules by combining theory with an applied approach.
-Use your registration portfolio as a registered genetic counsellor to obtain credits towards the award via the Accreditation of Prior Experiential Learning system.

Course details

Postgraduate certificate - to achieve a postgraduate certificate, you will need to earn 60 credits. You’ll be able to study either two genetics modules at 30 credits each, or all three at 20 credits each – counselling skills for genetic healthcare, genetic science for health professionals and practical genetics for health professionals.

Postgraduate diploma - to gain a postgraduate diploma, you’ll need to earn 120 credits. 60 of these will be made up from the two or three core modules undertaken in Year 1, with 40 credits coming from the core modules in Year 2, advancing research knowledge in practice 1 and advancing research knowledge in practice 2. Depending on the modules taken during Year 1, you will either undertake the remaining genetics module worth 20 credits or another optional 20 credit module.

Master of Science - for a full masters degree, you will need to earn a total of 180 credits. You will study the same core modules as the postgraduate diploma, with the extra 60 credits coming from a research project in an area of study related to genetic healthcare.

Please note: availability of modules may vary according to demand; module dates are therefore subject to change.

Year 1
The Health Genetics pathway has three core specialist modules, which are all worth either 20 or 30 credits. Optional modules – you must complete two 30 credit options or all three 20 credit options.
Optional modules
-IMS550 Practical Genetics for Health Professionals (Advanced)
-IMS552 Counselling Skills for Genetic Healthcare (Advanced)
-IMS551 Counselling Skills for Genetic Healthcare
-IMS553 Genetic Science for Health Professionals (advanced)
-IMS536 Genetic Science for Health Professionals
-IMS549 Practical Genetics for Health Professionals

Year 2
Please note: you must choose the remaining 20 credit genetics module if two 30 credit modules were taken in Year 1.
Optional modules
-MCH501 Advancing Research Knowledge in Practice 1
-MCH502 Advancing Research Knowledge in Practice 2

Final year
-MCH504 Dissertation

Every postgraduate taught course has a detailed programme specification document describing the programme aims, the programme structure, the teaching and learning methods, the learning outcomes and the rules of assessment.

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Genetic counsellors are health care professionals with specialized graduate training in the areas of medical genetics and counselling. Read more

Masters in Genetic Counselling

What is a Genetic Counsellor?

Genetic counsellors are health care professionals with specialized graduate training in the areas of medical genetics and counselling. Genetic counsellors usually work as members of a healthcare team, providing information and support to families who have members with birth defects or genetic disorders and to families who may be at risk for a variety of inherited conditions. Genetic counsellors work in a wide variety of settings, these include: general genetics, prenatal care and family planning, pediatrics, oncology, cardiology, neurology, laboratories, research, education, public health settings, and corporate environments. (NSGC website, accessed Oct 7, 2012).

GENERAL PROGRAM OVERVIEW

The Department of Medical Genetics, through Graduate and Postdoctoral Studies (G+PS) at the University of British Columbia, offers a unique two year graduate program leading to an MSc degree in Genetic Counselling. The program has full accreditation status by the American Board of Genetic Counseling (ABGC). Students, upon graduating, will be eligible to apply for “Active Candidate” status for both the ABGC and the Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors (CAGC) certification exams.

Six students are accepted into the Program each year to begin their studies in September. Genetic counsellors, geneticists, other healthcare professionals and UBC faculty members instruct and supervise students during their course of study.

The program balances strong academic grounding, direct clinical experiences and independent research to prepare graduates for the dynamic field of genetic counselling.

Academic coursework provides a comprehensive overview of:
- Molecular genetics and genomics
- Clinical genetics
- Counselling techniques and psychology
- Bioethics

Clinical experiences cover a broad range of specialties, preparing graduates for the expanding professional role. These include both private and public settings in the areas of:
- Prenatal genetics
- Pediatric and adult genetics
- Reproductive medicine
- Cancer
- Psychiatric genetics
- Focused practical rotations in embryofetopathology, fetal ultrasound and prenatal procedures, prenatal biochemistry laboratory, molecular biochemical and cytogenetic laboratories.

Interprofessional health education prepares graduates for a patient centred, team-based approach to healthcare delivery. Collaborating with the College of Health Disciplines, unique experiences include:
- Health Mentorship Program
- The Interprofessional Education (IPE) Passport
- Rounds and educational seminars held by the Department of Medical Genetics, Hereditary Cancer Program, Child and Family
Research Institute, BC Clinical Genomics Network and other departments within the hospital and university network.

While this is not a thesis program, all graduates complete an independent research project. The program provides mentorship, research skills development and encouragement towards contributing to the published literature in genetic counselling outcomes.

Quick Facts

- Degree: Master of Science
- Specialization: Genetic Counselling
- Subject: Health and Medicine
- Mode of delivery: On campus
- Program components: Coursework only
- Faculty: Faculty of Medicine

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