An exploration of novice genetic counselors’ transitional challenges: Commencement is just the beginning

Divya Baktha Ramachandra, Patricia McCarthy Veach, Bonnie S. LeRoy, Rebecca Tryon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Scopus citations


Although transitional challenges exist in many professions, no research has explicitly investigated challenges novice genetic counselors encounter as they enter the workforce. This qualitative study explored challenges genetic counselors face when transitioning from student to practicing counselor and their strategies for managing them. Fifteen novice genetic counselors (~1–2 years post-degree experience), recruited via the National Society of Genetic Counselors, participated in semi-structured phone interviews. Interview questions explored professional and personal challenges faced in their first 6 months, how challenges changed over time, strategies they used to manage these challenges, and resources they thought would have been helpful to have from the beginning. Inductive analysis of interview data yielded themes including: interpersonal challenges with colleagues (e.g. handling differences of opinion); intrapersonal challenges (e.g. lacking confidence, not feeling ready to ‘go solo’); patient care challenges (e.g. being viewed as young/inexperienced); and logistical challenges (e.g. billing). Personal challenges included moving to a new location, preparing for boards, establishing a work-life balance, and factors associated with one's significant others. Strategies to address challenges included seeking support and guidance from experienced genetic counselors and peers, using peer supervision groups, and involvement in community activities. Participants recommended connecting with recent graduates through national and local programs to facilitate the transition from student to genetic counselor. Results suggest the ‘transition years’ pose a variety of professional and personal challenges. Support and guidance are key to evolving from student to practicing counselor. Creating venues to help novice counselors make connections with colleagues and other recent graduates may be beneficial.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)822-835
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Genetic Counseling
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 2019

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was completed in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the first author's Masters of Science degree from the University of Minnesota. We would like to thank Lydia Thompson and Katherine Schroepfer?for interview transcription, and we thank the participants for their time and thoughtful responses.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2019 National Society of Genetic Counselors


  • genetic counselors
  • management strategies
  • novice genetic counselors
  • personal challenges
  • professional challenges
  • professional development
  • transitions
  • workforce


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