National Society of Genetic Counselors
    About Genetic Counselors

    Genetic Counselor Workforce Initiatives

    Does a genetic counselor workforce shortage exist? 

    The statement likely traces back 30 years ago, and focused on genetics specialists – not genetic counselors specifically.  While the shortage statement has been widely repeated in the press, NSGC data does not indicate a significant shortage at the current time.

    The Facts

    In early 2016 the WFWG commissioned Dobson l DaVanzo & Associates, LLC to conduct a workforce supply and demand study of United States-based certified genetic counselors over the next decade (2017-2026). 

    Since this study was published, the genetic counselor profession has experienced significant growth, outpacing the assumptions of the study.  There are 5,172 certified genetic counselors (CGCs). (Source: American Board of Genetic Counseling, November 2019)

    Over the past 20 years, since 1999, the profession has grown significantly (1,155 to 5,172).

    The profession has grown by over 100% in the last ten years and it is expected to grow another 100% in the next ten years.  In five years there should be nearly 7,500 CGCs and in ten years there are likely to be over 10,000. Significant growth is being driven by the creation of additional training programs and the expansion of current programs. 

    The shortage “mantra” is overstated; and in the coming months and years will be completely inaccurate

    Wait Times to See a Genetic Counselor

    The wait times to see genetic counselors vary by specialty. As the NSGC Professional Status Survey asks genetic counselors for the third next available appointment, patients who can be flexible in their schedules and STAT cases are able to be accommodated quickly. Approximately 50% of clinical CGCs have a third patient appointment available within a week.  Close to 90% of CGCs specializing in oncology report they can see a stat patient with 3 days, most on the same day.

    However, wait times is most significant in pediatrics as shown below. While the situations may vary, those patients who need to see a physician when the see a CGC wait much longer.

     

     

    GC Only

    GC and MD Together

     

     

    N

    Percent

    N

    Percent

    Pediatrics

    1-3 days

    7

    4%

    1

    1%

    4 days – 1 week

    19

    11%

    2

    1%

    8 days – 2 weeks

    12

    7%

    0

    0%

    15 days – 3 weeks

    20

    11%

    3

    2%

    22 days – 29 days

    10

    6%

    5

    3%

    1 – 2 months

    27

    15%

    22

    12%

    3 – 4 months

    9

    5%

    44

    25%

    5 – 6 months

    5

    3%

    33

    19%

    Longer than 6 months

    9

    5%

    62

    35%

    N/A

    53

    30%

    3

    2%

    I don't know

    7

    4%

    3

    2%

     

    Expanding Delivery Models

    Genetic counselors are also reaching more patients by expanding their uses of alternative service delivery models from the traditional face-to-face model. This includes telephone and web-based counseling and group counseling sessions.

     Telephone Care Providers.pngIn Person Care Providers.png

    Access Challenges

    While there are access issues in some areas of the country, or at specific institutions, for the patient there are often solutions such as accessing a different institution in the same metropolitan area with lower wait times or utilizing a telephone genetic counseling service.  On an institutional level, wait times can be decreased by introducing more efficient delivery models and modernizing institutional policies.  CGC deserts can be easily served by phone or internet based genetic counselor services. 

    Patients and referring healthcare practitioners should be made aware of how easy it is to find a genetic counselor at:  https://www.nsgc.org/page/find-a-genetic-counselor