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California Newborn Screening Program

Sickle Cell Counselor Training & Certification Program

What is the Sickle Cell Counselor Training and Certification Program?

The goal of this statewide program is to ensure accurate sickle cell education and counseling are provided in conjunction with sickle cell screening by training and certifying individuals working in community sickle cell agencies and other institutions. The training program consists of a two-day introductory course (Module I), a five day advanced counselor course (Module II), an internship (Module III), and continuing education workshops and/or seminars. (Module IV). The coursework provides the most up-to-date information about hemoglobin traits, sickle cell disease, and related hemoglobinopathies.

The program was initiated in California in 1975 to ensure that accurate sickle cell education and counseling was provided to individuals with sickle cell conditions. The training was expanded to include state certification of sickle cell counselors in the early 1980's. All agencies offering sickle cell screening must provide it in conjunction with sickle cell counseling and education by a state certified sickle cell counselor. In 1990, when sickle cell screening was added to the newborn screening test, the role of state certified sickle cell counselors was expanded to include counseling families whose infant was diagnosed with sickle cell trait, hemoglobin C trait, and/or hemoglobin D trait.

Successful completion of the Sickle Cell Counselor Training and Certification Program gives a counselor eligibility to serve as an entry level sickle cell counselor in a state approved sickle cell counseling program (counselors with additional experience, training and/or education may serve in higher level positions). All counselors are required to complete State of California continuing education requirements. These can be met by attending workshops presented by the Sickle Cell Counselor Training and Certification Program or other State approved genetic, health or biological science classes or workshops. It is expected that counselors who have been certified by the State of California and maintain their certification through ongoing continuing education are adequately prepared to serve in positions as sickle cell counselors. State certification is predicated upon the individual's demonstrated knowledge and skills, i.e., possession of basic competencies as outlined in the objectives of the Sickle Cell Counselor Training and Certification Program.

Who Should Attend?

The program is designed for healthcare professionals and paraprofessionals, community educators, and others interested in learning more about sickle cell conditions. Many of these individuals are working in health, social services, or community education organizations, medical offices, clinics or hospitals.

People seeking general information on sickle cell disease, sickle cell trait, and related hemoglobinopathies can take the introductory course and workshops. Those seeking to become sickle cell counselors must complete both courses, pass a final exam, and complete a sickle cell counselor internship (Module III). State certification of sickle cell counselors is given through the California State Department of Public Health, Genetic Disease Screening Program.

Training Schedule

Content of Module I - Introductory Course

  • An overview of patterns of inheritance
  • An overview of basic hemoglobin functions
  • An overview of sickle cell disease, sickle cell trait, common hemoglobinopathies, newborn screening, and follow-up care and treatment for sickle cell disease

Content of Module II - Advanced Course

  • Patterns of inheritance for hemoglobin traits and diseases
  • Nondirective counseling techniques
  • Steps for successful sickle cell counseling
  • How to construct a limited pedigree
  • Cross-cultural issues in sickle cell counseling
  • Laboratory diagnosis of common hemoglobin traits and diseases
  • Techniques for preparing educational presentations

Content of Module III - Internship

  • Orientation and review of counseling protocols
  • Participate in mock/real counseling sessions with supervision and evaluation
  • Certification as State Approved Sickle Cell Counselor

Content of Module IV - Continuing Education

Continuing education is provided on various topics related to hemoglobin disease and traits. These topics are covered in a variety of formats such as workshops, seminars, and conferences. For example, professional education workshops have been offered in the past on "Addressing Psychosocial Issues in Providing Services to Individuals with Sickle Cell Disease" and "Cross-Cultural Issues in Newborn Screening Follow-up." State-certified sickle cell counselors are required to complete 15 hours of continuing education every two years.

Are Continuing Education Credits Offered?

Module I and Module II are approved by the California Board of Registered Nursing for continuing education. Registered nurses can receive 12 contact hours for Module I and 28 contact hours for Module II. Continuing education credits are not offered for Module III - Internship. The workshops, seminars, and conferences which are provided in Module IV offer continuing education credits for nurses and genetic counselors, depending on the length and content of the specific training.

How Much is the Training Course?

For current cost information, please contact the Training Coordinator at (510)412-1481.

When are the Courses Offered?

In general, Module I and Module II are offered once a year. However, this is variable depending on the actual need and demand for students to become certified. As a general rule, Module I is offered for two consecutive days and Module II is divided into two parts with a one week break in between. Module II is offered approximately one to three months after Module I. To find out when the next course will be offered, call the Training Coordinator at (510)412-1481. There is also a self-instructed Module I course available by mail. It includes videos or DVDs, training guide, and course manual.

How Do I Enroll?

Contact the Training Coordinator at (510)412-1481 to get a registration packet. Enrollment in the course is limited, so sign up early.

Additional Questions?

For more information about these courses and future Sickle Cell Training courses, please call the California Department of Public Health, Genetic Disease Screening Program, Newborn Screening Branch, (510) 412-1481.


Last modified on: 2/8/2011 4:01 PM