Speare Assists in Bill Providing Licensure to Genetic Counselors in Pa.
- Virginia Speare, Ph.D., genetic counselor for Crozer-Keystone Cancer Services, played a key role in the movement to pass a bill providing licensure to genetic counselors in Pennsylvania.
- Licensure is expected to increase access to genetic services by helping hospitals and other medical professionals recognize who is qualified to deliver this information.
Virginia Speare, Ph.D., genetic counselor for Crozer-Keystone Cancer Services, played a key role in the movement to pass a bill providing licensure to genetic counselors in Pennsylvania. The bill was passed by the Pennsylvania House and Senate on Dec. 12, and signed into law by Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett on Dec. 22.
Speare collaborated with State Rep. Thomas Killion, Arcadia University, genetic counselors from Hershey Medical Center, and the National Society of Genetic Counselors to enact this bill. The bill, which is now recognized as two Acts, will mean that when a family is referred for genetic counseling services, they should be seen by a licensed genetic counselor. Licensure will regulate who can use the title “genetic counselor” by requiring genetic counselors to meet continuing educational obligations and to hold malpractice insurance.
The Acts also spell out the scope of practice for genetic counselors in Pennsylvania. According to the College of American Pathologists, the law’s scope of practice now empowers genetic counselors to provide a broad range of consultative and coordination services, but does not include diagnostic interpretation of test results. By more narrowly defining their scope of practice and establishing regulations to maintain licensure, the Acts formally accredit genetic counselors as experts in their field.
“The Acts are part of a nationwide effort to recognize genetic counselors as integral to the care of patients,” Speare says. “The recent explosion of genetic and genomic information will require that genetic counselors be part of the patient care team.”
According to Speare, licensure is expected to increase access to genetic services by helping hospitals and other medical professionals recognize who is qualified to deliver this information. Thus, they will be encouraged to integrate genetic counseling services into their patient care.
Pennsylvania has just under 200 practicing genetic counselors and is now the 14th state in the U.S. to pass a law regulating their practice. Efforts to achieve this law began in July of 2005 with submission of a Sunrise Evaluation Report to the PA Department of State. The report formally documented the reason that licensure is needed and was supported with letters from patients, organizations and physicians in favor of the movement.
Crozer-Keystone Health System offers genetic counseling services in its Prevention And Risk of Cancer Assessment (PARCA) program. PARCA provides cancer prevention strategies, including an initial risk assessment, which involves risk-reduction strategies, health screenings and genetic counseling and testing. For more information, visit www.crozerkeystone.org/services/cancer/services/parca/
Signing the Genetic Counseling Licensure bill are,
front row, left to right: Tom Killion, state
representative; Tom Corbett, governor; Virginia
Speare, Ph.D. Pictured in the back row, left to right,
are: Susan Sell, M.S., Hershey Medical Center;
Maria Baker, Ph.D., Hershey Medical Center; Laura
Conway, Ph.D., M.S., Arcadia University; Brenda
Finucane, M.S., Elwyn Inc.; Kathleen Valverde, M.S.,