The state of Iowa will soon recognize licensing for genetic counselors


Effective Jan. 1, 2019, the state of Iowa will recognize genetic counseling with licensure, a profession that specializes in medical genetics and counseling.

Genetic counselors provide support to help patients understand and adapt to the implications of genetic contributions to diseases, said Colleen Campbell, the UIHC director of genetic counseling.

“We are non-directive and facilitate informed decision making and provide psychosocial support and advocate on behalf of the [patient or] family coping with genetic conditions,” she said.

Families and family members at high risk of diseases are identified, and preventive action such as high-risk screening is taken.

For example, if cancer is identified and other individuals in the family are at higher risk of developing cancer, those individuals are given personalized, preventative recommendations.

“Genetic testing is becoming more complex,” she said. “Genetic counselors [help ensure] patients who want genetic testing [get] the right tests the first time, [with correct interpretation of results].”

As of now, 23 states in the United States recognize licensing, she said.

“Basically, this [legislation] establishes a scope of practice for genetic counselors and it provides requirements [for licensure and continuing] education,” Campbell said.

Previously, genetic counselors were unable to order any genetic tests or consults in Iowa but now as licensed provider we will be able to order genetic tests and consult, she said.

Campbell said the legislation will assist in growing genetic counselor workforce.

“It will help patients and hospitals by providing mechanism to identify appropriately [trained] individuals to provide genetic counseling to their patients,” she said.

Genetic counseling is a newer health-care field and is growing across the nation, she said.

Campbell said an important benefit of this legislation is that licensing genetic counselors will attract more talented individuals to the state of Iowa. This will expand the STEM workforce development and help Iowa remain a leader in providing cutting-edge health care to the community.

“By growing the workforce, we hope to be able to support [an accredited] master’s degree program in genetic counseling so Iowa students do not have to leave the state [for their education],” she said.

Campbell said the bill received bipartisan support.

“Genetic counseling will ensure that Iowa patients have expert help in understanding how their genes can affect their health and the health of family members,” Sen. Joe Bolkcom, D-Iowa City, said in an email to The Daily Iowan.

Genetic counselors help patients choose the best course of treatment, he said. Licensure will ensure that counselors have training and expertise to help their patients get the most appropriate diagnosis and care they need.

“[Requiring licensure] is a good idea,” Rep. Ken Rizer, R-Linn, said. “It had support from across the board. Everyone believed it was important to provide support to and knowing that genetic counselors must require licensing.”

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