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. Professional registration is awarded through the UK Genetic Counsellor Registration Board, and the MSc awarded by this programme is a recognised entry qualification for this. Course content is linked to practice-based competencies as defined by professional bodies.
The majority of graduates go on to work as genetic counsellors in NHS Regional Genetic Services. Other graduates have gone on to work as genetic counsellors in other countries in Europe, North America, Australasia and the Middle East.
Some students have gone on to research posts (including PhD studentships) particularly in psychosocial genetic counselling research, and in education and public engagement in genetics.
The programme 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
There is a professional organisation, the Association of Genetic Nurses and Counsellors (AGNC), which is a sub-group of the British Society for Genetic Medicine. Professional registration is awarded through the UK Genetic Counsellor Registration Board , and the MSc awarded by this programme is a recognised entry qualification for this. Course content is linked to practice-based competencies as defined by professional bodies.
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.
Teaching and learning
Teaching and supervision is provided by academic and clinical staff in Genetic Medicine, University of Manchester and Central Manchester Foundation Trust (based at St Mary's Hospital), and staff from other departments and external guest lecturers. Additional input / contribution from service users.
The Programme Committee comprises of:
Dr Rhona MacLeod (Course Director)
Dr Tara Clancy
Ms Diana Scotcher
Dr Kay Metcalfe
Dr Forbes Manson
Dr Bill Newman
Prof Andrew Read
Dr Fiona Ulph
Ms Georgina Hall
Ms Catherine Houghton
The Programme Committee meets to discuss matters of policy as well as implementation of the Course aims and objectives.
Coursework and assessment
Students are assessed via coursework, written examinations, research dissertation and clinical assessment.
Course unit details
The course has 3 components. Taught modules are scheduled on two days a week, and placements and research carried out on other days.
Taught course modules (120 credits)
Research dissertation (60 credits)
The programme consists of the following taught course units, with teaching taking place two days a week in the first year and one day a week in the second year:
Year 1 Genetic Counselling
Care and Counselling in Health Settings
Education and Ethics in Genetic Practice
Education and Communications in Genetics
Ethics in Genetic Practice
Year 2 Genetic Counselling
Year 1: students complete a placement (2 days per week for 10 weeks) in a setting providing services to individuals with disability
1 week observational genetic clinic placement
Year 2: students complete two placements (full time, 12 weeks each) in a UK Regional Genetic Service, which includes experience of a minimum of 40 supervised cases. All students complete one placement in the Service based at St Mary's Hospital in Manchester and the other usually at another Service within the UK. Students are assessed on their skill development towards achieving recognised genetic counsellor competencies
Students also undertake a research project leading to a dissertation.
Course content for year 1
Clinical Genetics (15 credits)
Integrative approach to genetic disorders affecting children and adults, focusing on the medical, genetic and psychosocial aspects of the most common. Students complete 2 essays discussing management of hypothetical cases and sit a 90-minute case-based exam in June.
Research Methods (30 credits)
A theoretical and practical course unit 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. Students sit a 60-minute multiple choice exam in May/June.
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 exam paper.
Year 1 Genetic Counselling (30 credits)
Counselling Skills Unit - An introduction to the theory and practice of counselling consisting of ten 1-hour sessions, 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, completion of a process recording and of a counselling essay.
Care and Counselling in Health Settings Unit - 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 presentation of a critical appraisal of an assigned paper from the literature, and a case report.
Course units for year 1
The course unit details given below are subject to change, and are the latest example of the curriculum available on this course of study.TitleCodeCredit ratingMandatory/optional
Course content for year 2
Education and Ethics in Genetic Practice (15 credits)
Education and Communication in Genetics Unit - Looks at methods of communicating genetics information in the genetic clinic setting as well as professional education and public engagement.Students complete assignments including the production of a lay leaflet, a counselling aid, and a set of teaching slides
Ethics in Genetic Practice Unit - 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: Genetic Counselling (15 credits)
Taught throughout the first and second semesters of year 2, the theory and practice of counselling in the clinical genetic context is explored. Sessions are structured around students' presentation of assigned readings, feedback on audio-visual recordings of made by students' genetic clinic sessions in their placements, and video and live role-play. Students are assessed through their preparation and presentation of assigned papers from the literature, preparation and presentation of clinical tapes, participation in role-play and discussion and completion of a process recording.
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Honours degree, preferably in one of the biological or equivalent sciences, nursing or psychology (minimum 2:1 or equivalent expected)
For applicants whose degree did not include completion of genetics modules, offers may be made subject to the completion of a short course in the science of human genetics, for example the Open University Course 'Learn about human genetics and health issue'
Minimum 6 months full-time equivalent working in a caring role (this may be through previous professional work (e.g. nursing/social work) or in a voluntary capacity.
Evidence of the applicant's understanding of the role of genetic counsellors (to be included in the covering letter explaining the applicant's interest in the course and a career in genetic counselling (250-500 words))
No work experience is required.
The programme is accredited by the UK Genetic Counsellor Registration Board (GCRB) and the European Board of Medical Genetics (EBMG)
Graduates of the MSc in Genetic Counselling Programme fulfil the entry level criteria for UK professional registration as a Genetic Counsellor, and would be eligible to apply for UK registration after a further two years of employment as a Genetic Counsellor in the UK.
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