The current COVID-19 pandemic has impacted us all. Kyle Davis, CGC, shares his experience during the pandemic, as well as a few tips for genetic counselors working from home during COVID-19.
- How have you adapted your work-life to the current COVID-19 situation?
I’ve been working from home for the past four years, so I didn’t have to navigate any of the big telemedicine changes, like some of my peers. In fact, I found myself giving advice to other genetic counselors to help with their transition. For me, the biggest change has been around scheduling with two kids out of school/daycare. I now start work late and end work late while my wife starts early and works early, basically doing shift work with the kids. Every day feels oddly the same now, weekday or weekend, since we have the kids around so much. The one thing that has had to stop is my creative writing. I’ve been writing 3-5 times per week for the past 5 years, but there’s just no time for it now.
- What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced during this transition?
The past 3-4 weeks have been very difficult trying to remain productive at work with the long days and the ever-changing nature of the pandemic. The days usually go from 5-6am to 11pm. That, on top of the disorienting and depressing news, makes it hard to remain productive.
- Do you have any tips for those CGCs working from home during this time?
Yes! Take advantage of a few things. For your usual commute time, you could do something for pleasure like reading (no Twitter!), going for a walk, gardening—whatever works for you. Use your lunch break for workouts or to go for a walk. Take a break and do some dinner prep or other household tasks. Go on lunch dates (picnics these days) with your spouse/partner or child.
To get the most out of working from home, try to work in a dedicated room with a door so you can close it. Invest in a headset for your phone and a decent office chair. Stay connected with your colleagues via chat or lunch video calls. Unlike some people, I don’t work in sweats, three-day-old clothes, or pajamas. I think that puts you in the wrong headspace.
When counseling, start training yourself to listen more and react to patients’ pauses, phrasing, and other audible clues. You might find yourself having better sessions than in a clinic since people are in a comfortable space for themselves! This can be a time to focus on new or different skills that can be helpful once you move back to the clinic or office. After a while, you might find yourself being more productive than you usually are at the office or in clinic. Or, if you have kids at home, maybe not.
Kyle Davis, CGC, is a certified genetic counselor specializing in neurogenetics at Lineagen, a privately held diagnostic laboratory. A 2016 graduate of John Hopkins University’s genetic counseling program, he is licensed in six states, providing genetic counseling to patients undergoing chromosomal microarray or exome sequencing testing and supports providers with questions about genomic testing for neurogenetic conditions, such as epilepsy and autism spectrum disorder.
Kyle did not immediately get his professional start in genetic counseling. To Kyle, this was the profession he was always looking for, but initially unaware of it as a career option; it was something he only later discovered though a Google search.
Kyle graduated from Purdue University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology with plans of going to medical school. However, after getting into medical school, he decided it was not the right career-path for him, declining his acceptance. From there, Kyle enrolled in Columbia University’s physical therapy program, which was also the wrong path, at which point he left Columbia and moved on to publishing, serving as an editorial assistant for Viking/Penguin USA. After a few years in publishing, he found he missed science and the world of healthcare—that’s when Kyle stumbled upon the genetic counseling profession in his pursuit of a new career path and has not looked back since.
For Kyle, being a genetic counselor is everything he thought it would be, but it also comes with its share of challenges. “I didn’t really appreciate the difficulty of being on the forefront of knowledge. You get these rare findings with little information, they are very hard to interpret and the families and providers want answers. That is much more difficult in some cases than I thought it might be,” explains Kyle. “The continued growth of genetics, using RNA now in diagnostics, using liquid biopsies and just how the testing landscape is changing surprises me.”
In addition to his work as a genetic counselor, Kyle also works as a freelance science and medical writer, with his articles published by outlets including Perspective in Genetic Counseling
and the National Human Genome Research Institute
. Given his life-long passion for writing and his genetic counseling background, Kyle’s freelance work provides him with the opportunity to help make complicated topics understandable and interesting.
But after years of saying “yes” to new projects and work with the National Society of Genetic Counselors, Kyle encourages those who are new to the profession to learn to say “no.” In fact, he said 2020 is his year of “no”, not to add extra commitments. “I think genetic counselors, by and large, are people who are excited and want to help. We naturally want to say yes, but we can overextend ourselves. I’ve found that learning how and where to get involved is a skill in and of itself.” Now when he considers a new role or project, he thinks about three questions: “Is the project great? Is the pay great? Are the people you’re working with great? Two of those three should be a ‘yes.’”
It is Kyle’s wish to see the industry continue to demonstrate the value genetic counselors bring to the healthcare team and for consumers to know what genetic counseling is and how much it can help them. “I find it refreshing to see that conversation evolve with people. That they see that depth of knowledge that genetic counselors have, but also just how practical it is and how beneficial we can be in helping them understand and advocate for genetics in general.”