Date of Award


Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Genetic Counseling

First Advisor

Victoria Vincent


The genetic counseling community has long recognized that the successful outcome of a session with a patient whose cultural background differs from the genetic counselor's is best achieved through recognition of the cultural differences and implementation of specific skills to overcome cultural barriers. Although research has examined the need and effects of cultural competency in genetic counseling, no prior study has evaluated how genetic counselors perceive the importance of addressing cultural issues in a genetic counseling session. Prenatal genetic counselors were recruited by emailing all NSGC members. For this study, sixteen prenatal genetic counselors were interviewed and asked to prioritize issues based on three hypothetical case examples in which the patients belonged to different cultural groups: Deaf, Hispanic, and Asian Indian. Study participants mentioned educational elements of the session more frequently than how cultural issues might impact the perception of that education. Participants recognized how cultural beliefs could affect the session but instead of relying on personal biases they favored strategies that highlighted patient individualization such as empathizing, asking pertinent questions, and showing respect. Several potential barriers to discussing patient culture were identified including concern of personal biases, concern about offending the patient, and feeling uncomfortable when the patients' cultural views are different from their own, for example gender roles and perception of assigning fault to the mother of a child with a birth defect. Further research is needed to explore the skills used by genetic counselors in cross cultural genetic counseling sessions, and their perceived comfort and limitations.


© 2013, Darcy Katherine Berry