Navigating Burnout in Genetic Counseling

In the twenty-second installment of the PhenoTips Speaker Series, international genetic counselors with research interests and years of experience managing burnout in genetic counseling, Vishakha Tripathi, Erin Wadman, and Brittney Johnstone, discuss the rising prevalence of burnout in genetic counseling.


Due to the emotionally demanding nature of their roles, genetic counselors are at high risk of compassion fatigue. In addition to compassion fatigue, genetic counselors also face moral distress, a phenomenon described as feeling unable to take the preferred morally appropriate course of action as a result of institutionalized obstacles. These factors, combined with the evolving nature of their roles, put genetic counselors at significant risk of burnout. To combat this rising challenge, PhenoTips invited burnout researchers, Erin Wadman and Brittney Johnstone, and experienced lead genetic counselor, Vishakha Tripathi, to share their insights.

Vishakha Tripathi is a registered genetic counsellor and past chair of the Genetic Counsellor Registration Board (GCRB). She has worked in genetic counselling for over 15 years, experiencing and managing burnout first-hand. She currently leads the genetic counselling team, the HBOC family service and the Cancer Risk Assessment service (CRAS). Vishakha is part of the Clinical Genetics operational team and senior leadership team. She has also worked as London representative to the Genomics Clinical Reference Group within NHS England. Her specialist interests include service development and the use of advanced psychosocial skills in genetic counselling. She delivers and leads the cancer genetics course for healthcare professionals with colleagues from King’s College London.

Erin Wadman is a clinical pediatric genetic counselor working in the Nemours Children’s Health Division of Medical Genetics. She graduated from Arcadia University’s Master of Science in Genetic Counseling program in 2018 where she worked on her master’s thesis examining moral distress in the genetic counseling profession and its potential relationship with genetic counselor burnout. The results of this work were presented at the NSGC Annual Conference in 2018 as a platform presentation and later published in the Journal of Genetic Counseling in early 2022. As a genetic counselor, she primarily works face-to-face with patients and families. Erin also supervises and lectures genetic counseling graduate students, coordinates clinical and student research, and facilities the Nemours Genetics Journal Club.

Brittney Johnstone is a Canadian and American board-certified genetic counsellor specializing in hereditary cancer syndromes at the Sunnybrook Odette Cancer Centre. Prior to joining Sunnybrook, Brittney worked in a variety of roles including prenatal, laboratory, research, and pediatric genetics. She is a member of the genetic counselling faculty in the Department of Molecular Genetics at the University of Toronto. Additionally, Brittney has a research interest in burnout and professional development in genetic counsellors and has contributed to the academic literature on this topic.

  • Factors leading to burnout among genetic counselors
  • Signs to self-identify burnout
  • Mitigation and coping strategies
  • Resources and ways to support colleagues

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