Communication skills training for healthcare professionals in providing genetic counseling: A scoping literature review.

Document Type


Publication Date



Center for Outcomes Research and Evaluation, Maine Medical Center Research Institute

Journal Title

Patient education and counseling

MeSH Headings

Professional-Patient Relations, Humans, Genetic Counseling, Health Personnel


OBJECTIVE: Genetic counselors need advanced communication skills, particularly when discussing tests involving massively parallel sequencing. Increasingly, non-genetic healthcare professionals (HCPs) also need to provide genetic counseling. Communication skills training (CST) may equip HCPs with the required communication skills. This scoping review provides an overview of the content, approach, effectiveness and effective features of CSTs aimed at improving genetic and non-genetic HCPs' communication skills in providing genetic counseling.

METHODS: Following the PRISMA-ScR statement, four databases were searched for articles. Two researchers independently screened titles and abstracts, and extracted data. When applicable, information on effectiveness and effective features of CST was collated.

RESULTS: Twenty-three articles were included. Sixteen CSTs targeted non-genetic HCPs, five targeted genetic HCPs and two targeted both. Most CSTs addressed multiple communication behaviors and consisted of role play. CSTs were found to be effective for improving HCPs (mainly self-reported) attitudes and skills. Limited evidence on specific effective features of CST was found.

CONCLUSIONS: There is a clear need for evidence on the effectiveness of CST on improving both HCPs' communication skills in the context of genetic counseling, and patient outcomes, and its specific effective features.

PRACTICE IMPLICATIONS: Clinical practice could benefit from evidence-based CST for genetic and non-genetic HCPs.