Using a community of practice to develop standards of practice and education for genetic counsellors in Europe.
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The profession of genetic counselling is developing in Europe in response to the increased need for genetic healthcare. Standards of education and professional practice are needed to ensure that patients are provided with genetic counselling of an appropriate quality. However, such standards need to be relevant to practitioners in many different national and healthcare settings. In order to develop appropriate standards and a code of practice to guide professionals in Europe, we formed a community of practice that includes genetic nurses and counsellors, plus other interested health professionals, from 23 European countries. With reference to the European core competences for genetic counsellors, the members of the network developed a set of professional standards for practice, educational standards and a code of practice. It is strongly suggested that the title genetic counsellor should become a protected title in Europe and that practitioners are educated via a master level degree in genetic counselling. These standards have been approved by the members of the network and the existing professional national societies for genetic nurses and counsellors. They provide a foundation for building the profession of genetic counselling in Europe and for provision of equitable care across European countries. Further work is now needed to ensure that appropriate educational opportunities exist to train practitioners and that clinical teams utilise the expertise of these professionals appropriately to enhance the care offered to families at risk of or affected by genetic conditions.
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