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So, You've Always Wanted to Advocate for Genetic Counselors But Don't Know How

A Suggestion Guide to Advocate for Genetic Counselors


Disclaimers:

  • I am not compensated nor professionally contracted with any individuals, companies, or resources mentioned in this blog. The content is based solely on my knowledge and intended to provide information and insights to the readers.

  • This weeks blog is a bit longer than my usual posts, BUT - bear with me as I have a whole lot of suggestions, recommendations, and examples to demonstrate my key points. I promise, the extra length is well worth it!

Image of women holding a sign advocating for GCs "its not just about chromosomes and counseling sessions; its about making our mark,, one "aha" moment at a time.

Ever found yourself wondering how to raise awareness around the genetic counseling field and advocating for us as genetic counselors (GCs)? Well, today, I'm diving a little bit into the world of advocacy – a brainstorming and suggestion guide for GCs, medical providers, and educators alike to boost the voice of genetic counseling.


Wondering Where to Start?

Think about your experience explaining genetic counseling. Much of the world out there still doesn't quite get what we do. It's like explaining rocket science to a toddler. We've got our work cut out for us, identifying where the confusion lies and turning those puzzled expressions into "Aha!" moments. Start small. Share relatable stories with colleagues, break it down with humor, and witness the ripple effect. Imagine clarifying the concept, role, or field of genetic counseling during a casual coffee break with medical peers or educators – a moment of clarity that can lead to broader understanding.

Initiating such conversation for a GC could be as simple as sharing a patient success story during a team meeting. For other medical providers and educators, try to bring up the topic during a coffee break with colleagues or during a lecture in grad school. Ask questions like, "Have any of you collaborated with GCs in your practice? What was your experience like?" or "have you had the chance to work with GCs in the past? What was that experience like for you?"

Social Media Sorcery:

If a cat video can break the internet, surely, we can break the stigma around genetic counseling. Engaging content, quirky posts, and maybe a meme or two – because who said genetics can't be fun? Social media platforms are a powerhouse for spreading knowledge. No matter your role, leverage them to share interesting and inspiring facts, case studies, or a touch of wit. Transform genetic counseling into a trend worthy of discussion in any setting. You'd be amazed at the conversations you'd have and the opportunities you'd find to educate.

GCs can post fun facts on Instagram or LinkedIn, like "Did you know GCs are the unsung heroes of personalized healthcare?‍ Let's unravel the mystery together! #GeneticCounseling #HealthcareHeroes." Medical providers can also share facts and updates from their perspective, like relevant articles about the collaboration between genetics and primary care, sparking conversations on professional networks.

See my previous blog post about utilizing social media as a platform to educate.

There are SO many great social media pages out there to follow. Here are some GC owned pages that you could explore (each link below contains social media links for each person):

Become the Knowledge Hub:

Picture yourself as the go-to expert within your medical or educational community. Host informative sessions or workshops where GCs, medical providers, and educators unite. Share success stories – like the impact genetic counseling had on patient outcomes or how it enriched educational curricula. Spark conversations that echo in the hallways and classrooms.

A GC might Share a success story during a hospital grand rounds, emphasizing the positive impact on patient outcomes.

  • During a talk I did at a hospital a few years back, I shared a success story at grand rounds about a patient - a woman with a paternal family history of prostate cancer. Through genetic counseling, a previously undetected variant was identified, leading to a personalized healthcare plan. Early interventions based on this plan prevented the progression to cancer, which highlights the crucial impact of genetic counseling on patient outcomes and sparking discussions about integrating it into routine care. It was awesome to see the interest and "Aha!" moments on the audience's faces.

For educators, hosting a workshop on integrating genetic counseling into medical school curricula and discussing the results of improved student understanding could be a valuable knowledge-sharing initiative.

Educational Extravaganza:

Let's be the educators we were born to be. Crafting campaigns that speak the language of the masses, because who needs jargon when you've got relatable stories? It's time to debunk myths (example) and make genetic counseling as commonplace as googling symptoms. Whether you're a GC or educator, simplify complex concepts for your medical peers.

A medical provider can explain genetic counseling as "the GPS of healthcare, guiding patients (and providers) through genetic terrain." A GC could simplify the concept by saying, "It's like storytelling with genes – helping individuals understand their unique genetic narrative, or providers understand their patient's genetic maze." Share the story of a patient who initially struggled with genetic concepts but left a counseling session feeling empowered and informed. A GC can tell a story about advocating for patients or talk about the impact GCs have on driving change within healthcare coverage, education, and medical report content.

Media Engagement:

Ever envisioned your voice on the airwaves or your face on the local news? Break out your best soundbites and let the world know: genetic counseling is not just a subplot; it's the main event. Reach out to media outlets, showcasing the collaborative efforts between GCs, medical providers, and educators. Share compelling narratives on how genetic counseling enhances patient care and transforms educational approaches. Imagine the impact of this collective narrative.

Examples of text to use for emails and phone conversation with media outlets

Media Outlets to Reach Out To:

Legislative Luminary:

You don't need a law degree to make a legislative impact. Time to flex those advocacy muscles and let policymakers know we're not just in the background; we're shaping the narrative. Stay informed and engage with policymakers as a unified front – GCs, medical providers, and educators advocating for the profession. Imagine the sway your collective voice holds in shaping policies that benefit patients, practitioners, and the educational landscape.

You could attend local healthcare forums and express the importance of genetic counseling in patient care. Collaborate with medical associations to present a unified front. Reach out to local representatives through personalized emails or calls, emphasizing the impact of genetic counseling on patient outcomes, healthcare efficiency, and education. Connect with organizations, like local health advocacy groups, to increase your impact.

 

So, there you have it – a collaborative roadmap for becoming the advocate the genetic counseling world needs. Whether you're a GC, medical provider, or educator, our collective voice holds tremendous power. By doing this, we not only elevate ourselves but also contribute to a better-informed and empowered society. It's not just about chromosomes and counseling sessions; it's about making our mark, one "aha" moment at a time. So, how will YOU advocate for GCs - as the conversationalist, the social media expert, or the legislative leader?

Share your insights and together, let's advocate, educate, and inspire!


Until next time!

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Nira

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Nira Johnson, MS-GC, ASc

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