Surprises and challenges: Clinical placement in Wagga Wagga
Grace Phillips is one of 24 inaugural genetic counselling students at UTS and recently completed her first clinical placement at an outreach genetic clinic in Wagga Wagga.
Grace Phillip's experience so far is that genetic counselling ‘ticks all the boxes’ for her ideal career: it utilises her knowledge of science, makes a direct difference in someone’s life, provides for clinical or research careers, and offers career security and sustainability.
What was your biggest and best surprise while on clinical placement?
The number of opportunities available to me! I was placed at an outreach, general genetic clinic ran by a sole genetic counsellor who took care of everything from administration duties to conducting clinics. This meant I was fortunate to experience the journey with a client from the time their referral was received, to the end when they were discharged from the service. I found myself participating in duties I had previously overlooked as to be integral to a client’s care at a genetic counselling clinic, which has opened my eyes to the amount of work that goes on behind the scenes.
What was the biggest challenge for you? How did you manage it?
Identifying my limitations and being honest about my abilities. I told myself to ‘jump in have a go’ but multiple times the nerves set in, or I realised I didn’t have the knowledge I needed to complete a task – which was ok! After all, I need to learn to walk before I can run.
Under the supportive guidance from my placement clinical supervisor, we spoke about what I felt comfortable doing and what may be out of my current scope of practice. We spoke about how to approach the tasks I found more challenging, and the supervisor willingly shared some tips and experiences. After a couple of discussions and practice-runs to prepare myself, I was able to identify my weaker areas of knowledge. By recognising these areas and ‘filling the gaps’ I began to feel more competent.
What advice would you have for students going on clinical placements?
I’d encourage others to take a journal and write down thoughts throughout the day, and reflect at the end of each day. I found this strategy helped me understand my emotional responses and how I adapt to new environments. As I read over my entries, I saw the personal growth I experienced, how my thoughts changed as I was exposed to new situations, how my feelings of self-confidence grew and how I began to think more critically. Best of all, I can use this knowledge to guide and prepare myself for future placements.
Now that you have done one placement, what are you looking forward to in your next placement?
I look forward to going to a metropolitan genetic counselling clinic. After finishing placement at an outreach clinic, I’ve been considering the similarities and differences between outreach and metropolitan clinics. During the same placement, I hope to have the opportunity to explain management options to a client. This opportunity would allow me to practice a multitude of skills I am currently learning and refining, such as applying evidence-based practice, client-centred practice and clinical reasoning.
While we are here, tell us about your journey into studying genetic counselling at UTS.
My journey to studying genetic counselling was a fast-paced transition. As a recent graduate I decided I wanted to study a postgraduate specialisation. After four months of scouring university programs, I came across genetic counselling at UTS. I was intrigued by this career option as it ticked all the boxes for my ideal career: it would utilise my knowledge of science, make a direct difference in someone’s life, allow exploration of the clinical or research stream, and offer career security and sustainability. Within a short couple of months, I had been in touch with some referees, written my personal statement and was catching a train to attend an entrance interview for the UTS genetic counselling program.