Case study

Pre-registration genetic counsellor — Abrar Buhlaiqah

As a genetic counsellor, Abrar uses a person-centred approach to help individuals and families make informed decisions about their genetic condition. Find out more about her role

What degree did you study?

I graduated with an MSc (MedSci) Genetic and Genomic Counselling (with work placement) from the University of Glasgow in 2019.

How did you get your job?

I registered my email with different recruitment websites, which send alerts if there is a job available. I found my job with NHSGGC: West of Scotland Genetic Services on the NHS Scotland National Recruitment portal.

What's a typical working day like?

I start by checking my emails and making sure I have all the documentation required for the clinic. Appointments are approximately 45 minutes long and we deal with individuals and families from different backgrounds, cultures and beliefs.

During the clinic, we discuss family history, medical history, explain the genetics of the condition, the way it is inherited, assess risks to the individual and their family, discuss management plans if available and any referral this requires.

We also discuss genetic testing, its possible outcomes, any implications testing might have on the individual and their family, and answer any questions or concerns. After the clinic, I write up clinical notes, request genetic testing and, if required, refer to other services.

I also attend and participate in meetings, study or teaching sessions. I discuss any issues or challenges with colleagues. During the last few hours of the day, I plan my next day's work and check my emails again for any urgent matters.

What do you enjoy most about your job?

I enjoy the interactions I have with the families I work with and with other colleagues in the healthcare service. I also enjoy my job because I learn something new every day from colleagues and the families.

What are the challenges?

The field of genetics and genomics changes rapidly and develops every day. This can be challenging but it's important to be up to date to provide the families we see with the best care.

A part of our job is to build rapport and professional relationships with the families we see. We might see the individual more than once or see multiple members of the same family, which I enjoy. Nevertheless, this can make the job challenging because each individual and every family have their own stories, which can have an impact on us as genetic counsellors.

To help us, we have regular supervision and colleagues' support, which are very important to ensure we provide the best practice and healthcare to the families, while taking care of our own mental health.

In what way is your degree relevant?

My Masters was focused on genetics, genomics and counselling. All these modules are essential in my job. I also did two clinical placements in different health boards, which allowed me to experience genetic counselling as a profession.

How has your role developed and what are your career ambitions?

My role will probably expand over the next few years as the field of genetics and genomics develops, especially with the wide use of genetics and genomics testing.

I am interested in developing my career in the areas of service improvement, development and research and would like to participate in research to achieve this. I also aim to complete my registration with the Genetic Counsellor Registration Board (GCRB) and become a registered genetic counsellor.

What are your top tips for choosing a Masters?

Before making a decision, ask yourself if this is the field you want to study and perhaps work in. Volunteering or training will help you to determine if this is an area of interest and will also help when applying for Masters courses and for jobs later on.

What advice can you give to others wanting to get into this job?

  • Shadow genetic counsellors and attend conferences in the field. Always look for opportunities and take them.
  • Gain experience by shadowing therapists who deal with complex needs or with genetic conditions, especially if your background is in science.
  • Develop the skills need for genetic counselling. These include reflection, time management, explaining complex information in simple terms and effective listening.

Find out more

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