Genetic Counseling Assistants: an Integral Piece of the Evolving Genetic Counseling Service Delivery Model

Sara Pirzadeh-Miller, Linda S. Robinson, Parker Read, Theodora S. Ross

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


This study explores the potential impact of the genetic counseling assistant (GCA) position on the efficiency of the genetic counseling field, evaluates attitudes regarding expansion of the genetic counseling field to include the GCA, and presents data on GCA endeavors and GCA job tasks as reported by GCAs, certified genetic counselors (CGCs), and program directors (PDs). Data on GCA roles and attitudes toward different aspects of the GCA position were collected via surveys of CGCs who have worked with GCAs, PDs who have and have not had experience with GCAs in their programs, and GCAs. We analyzed responses from 63 individuals: 27 PDs, 22 CGCs, and 14 GCAs. GCAs’ impact on efficiency was calculated via internal analysis of genetic patient volume per genetic counselor within the University of Texas Southwestern (UTSW) patient database prior to, and since the addition of, a GCA to the practice. The response rates for PDs, CGCs, and GCAs were 27 %, 79 %, and 61 %, respectively. Every CGC stated the GCA increased their efficiency. CGCs with a GCA reported a 60 % average increase in patient volume. This figure was congruent with internal data from the UTSW cancer genetics program (58.5 % increase). Appropriate responsibilities for GCAs as reported by CGCs and PDs (>90 %) include: data entry, shipping tests, administrative tasks, research, and ordering supplies. Regarding GCAs delivering test results, there was response variation whether this should be a job duty: 42 % of CGCs agreed to GCAs delivering negative results to patients, compared to 22 % of program directors. Twenty-two percent of PDs expressed concern about the job title “Genetic Counseling Assistant.” Ninety percent of CGCs felt that GCA was a career path to becoming a CGC, compared to 42 % of PDs. Eighty-three percent of GCAs who decided to apply to CGC graduate programs were accepted. We conclude the addition of a GCA to a genetic counseling practice contributes to increased efficiency and is one way to expand the reach of the profession.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)716-727
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Genetic Counseling
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Genetic clinic efficiency
  • Genetic counseling assistant
  • Genetic counseling profession
  • Genetic counselor
  • Service delivery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics(clinical)


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