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The University of Southampton

MEDI6123 Counselling Skills for Genomics

Module Overview

This is an introduction to counselling skills for genomics. Students undertaking this module will be taught how to communicate and provide appropriate support to individuals and their families. Development of counselling skills will be achieved via theoretical and practical sessions. Students will understand the importance of a family history and communication of pathogenic and/or uncertain results.

Aims and Objectives

Module Aims

To equip students with the knowledge, communication and counselling skills and appropriate attitudes and behaviours towards the diagnosis and management of patients whose care will be influenced by genomic investigations.

Learning Outcomes

Learning Outcomes

Having successfully completed this module you will be able to:

  • Explain the importance and application of informed consent in the field of genomic medicine generally and as applied to the 100,000 Genomes Project. Discuss the particular challenges associated with informed consent in the context of this project.
  • Explain the different purposes of genomic testing in patients with rare inherited diseases, cancer and infectious diseases
  • Explain genomic results in terms of diagnosis prediction and uncertainty
  • Describe and evaluate the skills necessary to support individuals who have genomic results that affect their care including the underpinning evidence base and patient perspective
  • Discuss the concepts of genetic and genomic predispositions to illnesses
  • Discuss the consequences of genomic test results on the patient and the wider family including incidental findings, drawing on the published evidence base and personal experiences of patients, carers and the wider family
  • Evaluate and discuss the communication and counselling skills needed to engage and communicate effectively in a compassionate manner with patients, their carers and the wider family
  • Explain the range of screening pathways used to test for inherited and acquired disorders and evaluate their effectiveness including how they support clinical decision making
  • Discuss and critically evaluate current and potential future ethical, legal and social issues (ELSI) of genome testing and whole genome sequencing.


• Consent and what it means in relation to the 100,000 Genomes Project • Ethical and social implications of genomic testing • How to record and interpret a family history, recognising what is or may be relevant • How to verify personal and family history information; consent, confidentiality, access to records • Different purposes of genomic testing • Approaches to prenatal testing, pre-implantation testing (PGD) and pre-conception carrier screening in relation to new technologies • Strategies of approach to lifelong patient management of whole genome information • Managing and explaining complex genome results • Sources for patient support: patient support groups, on-line resources, other resources • Communication and counselling skills • How to access and use patient databases e.g. Decipher

Special Features

The module will be taught by an international faculty, at the forefront of their respective academic disciplines and professions. Adult learning methods will be used throughout and an emphasis placed upon interactive learning, practical demonstration and the interpretation of clinical scenarios to reinforce learning. Extensive e-learning facilities will be available to foster independent study

Learning and Teaching

Teaching and learning methods

The module will comprise two blocks of two days' intensive on-site teaching, each followed by a period of independent study. This module will be run by the Faculty of Medicine but the module leaders already have established collaborations with the Faculty of Health Sciences and will draw on these when delivering the module. In addition, both module leaders work within the Wessex Clinical Genetics Service who will be directly involved in sharing their clinical expertise through teaching. The teaching will be delivered by a number of individuals with specific areas of expertise, such as, genetic counsellors, consultant geneticists, social scientists, specialist nurses, clinical scientists and members of the clinical ethics and law group. A variety of learning and teaching methods will be adopted to promote a wide range of skills and meet the differing learning styles of the group. The counselling module will be delivered through a range of teaching methods. This will include lectures, case studies with opportunities for reflection, facilitated small group discussion, experiential learning activities (use of actors, role play, communication and counselling skills training) and online forum groups. Off-site independent learning will take place on the virtual learning environment hosted by the UoS.

Independent Study122
Total study time150

Resources & Reading list

McCarthy Veach, Leroy & Bartels (2003). Facilitating the Genetic Counseling Process: A Practical Manual. 

Harper (2010). Practical Genetic Counselling. 

Clarke (1994). Genetic Counselling – practice and Principles. 

Gaff and Byland (2010). Family communication about Genetics: Theory & Practice. 

Skirton, H & Patch, C. (2002). Genetics for Health Care professionals – A lifestage approach. 


Assessment Strategy

The assessment for the module provides you with the opportunity to demonstrate achievement of the learning outcomes. There will be two components to the assessment i) Oral case presentation, and ii) 2000 word written assignment The pass mark for the module and all assessed components is 50%. If you do not achieve the pass mark on this module by achieving 50% or more in all components, you may still pass by compensation. To do this, you must achieve a qualifying mark of 40% on each assessed component. Each of the component marks is then combined, using the appropriate weighting, to give an overall mark for the module. If this overall mark is greater than or equal to 50% you will have passed the module. If your overall mark is less than 50% when the weighting has been applied to the components, you will have failed the module. If you have not achieved 40% or more on all components, you cannot use compensation and have failed the module. If you have failed the module, you will have the opportunity to submit work at the next referral (re-sit) opportunity using the method outlined below. You must achieve the pass mark in all referred components. On passing your referrals, your final module mark will be capped at 50%.


MethodPercentage contribution
Oral case presentation  (10 minutes) 40%
Written assignment  (2000 words) 60%


MethodPercentage contribution
Written assignment  (3000 words) 100%

Repeat Information

Repeat type: Internal & External

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