Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 786–798 | Cite as

Further Defining the Role of the Laboratory Genetic Counselor

  • Lindsey Waltman
  • Cassandra Runke
  • Jessica Balcom
  • Jacquelyn D. Riley
  • Margaret Lilley
  • Susan Christian
  • Lindsay Zetzsche
  • McKinsey L. Goodenberger
Original Research


Laboratory genetic counseling is becoming increasingly common as a result of increased laboratory services and genetic testing menus, as well as growing job responsibilities. Christian et al. (2012) provided the first quantitative data regarding the roles of the laboratory-based genetic counselor (LBGC) finding that two of the most prevalent roles are as customer liaisons and communicators of test results. The goal of the present study was to further delineate the role of the LBGC by addressing specific tasks that LBGCs are involved with on a day-to-day basis. A survey was designed to expand upon themes identified in the Christian et al. (2012) study by querying specific tasks performed in several categories of potential LBGC job duties. An invitation for LBGCs to participate was distributed via email to the membership of the National Society of Genetic Counselors (NSGC) and the Canadian Association of Genetic Counsellors (CAGC). We identified 121 genetic counselors who primarily work in the laboratory setting or whose job role includes a laboratory component. Almost all respondents performed customer liaison/case coordination (95 %), and interpretation and result reporting (88 %). The most frequently performed tasks within these categories involved addressing questions from clients, making phone calls with genetic testing results, obtaining clinical or family history information for results interpretation, and composing case-specific interpretations for unique results and/or obtaining literature references to support interpretations. The study results also point to trends of expanding roles in sales and marketing, variant interpretation and management responsibilities. Results of this study may be useful to further define the full scope of practice of LBGCs, aid in the development of new LBGC positions and expand current positions to include roles related to test development, research, and student supervision. It may also aid in curriculum updates for training programs to increase exposure to LBGC roles.


Laboratory Genetic counselor Non-clinical Roles 


Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

Lindsey Waltman, Cassandra Runke, Jessica Balcom, Jacquelyn D. Riley, Margaret Lilley, Susan Christian, Lindsay Zetzsche, and McKinsey L. Goodenberger declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Human Studies and Informed Consent

All procedures followed were in accordance with the ethical standards of the responsible committee on human experimentation (institutional and national) and with the Helsinki Declaration of 1975, as revised in 2000 (5). Informed consent was obtained from all patients for being included in the study.

Animal Studies

No animal studies were carried out by the authors for this article.

Supplementary material

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Copyright information

© National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lindsey Waltman
    • 1
  • Cassandra Runke
    • 1
  • Jessica Balcom
    • 1
  • Jacquelyn D. Riley
    • 2
  • Margaret Lilley
    • 3
  • Susan Christian
    • 3
  • Lindsay Zetzsche
    • 1
  • McKinsey L. Goodenberger
    • 1
  1. 1.Mayo ClinicRochesterUSA
  2. 2.Cleveland ClinicClevelandUSA
  3. 3.University of Alberta HospitalEdmontonCanada

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