Genetics, once a field of rare disorders, is now seen as integral to understanding health and disease across all medical disciplines, and it encompasses common disorders throughout the life cycle. Genetics is also unique in its ability to identify individuals with inherited risk factors, allowing preventive care and tailored management.
Providing genetics services is a collaborative effort, and PAs are part of the team with their precepting physicians, genetic counselors and geneticists, nurses, social workers, and others. Typically, the PA will have the closest relationship with the patient, which is critical to genetics services because eliciting personal and familial information is required for genetic risk assessment. Other skills that will be necessary for PAs include, but are not limited to:
recognizing inheritance patterns,
ordering some genetic tests,
referring patients for genetic evaluations, and
collaborating with genetics professionals in patient management.
Genetic advances will ultimately influence the diagnosis and treatment of most common, chronic diseases. That trend has already begun, and the healthcare system is being challenged to meet the task. Future PAs are being better prepared to address genetics issues in practice, and practicing PAs need to stay ahead of the curve by learning and incorporating genetics principles – starting now – to provide better patient care.
Learning Objectives for the Program
When you have completed the case studies and reviewed the supplementary content in this site, you should have an increased understanding of:
The utility of the genetic family history in practice
Basic patterns of single-gene inheritance
Red flags that signal a genetic contribution to disease
Some ethical, legal, and social issues related to the provision of genetics services
And be able to:
Collect basic but informative family history information
Identify patients and families who may benefit from genetic services
Consult trusted genetics resources
Locate and refer to genetics professionals as necessary
Collaborate with genetics professionals in patient management