Date of Award

Spring 2022

Document Type

Open Access Thesis


Genetic Counseling

First Advisor

Debera Zvejnieks


Healthcare chaplains prioritize the spiritual and religious care a patient and their family may need during their healthcare experience. This study investigated the current utilization of healthcare chaplains by genetic counselors, as well as the ability, in time and skill, of the healthcare chaplains to see genetic counseling patients. Lastly, the study investigated if genetic counseling patients would accept a referral to meet with a healthcare chaplain. We hypothesized that genetic counselors are not utilizing healthcare chaplains, healthcare chaplains have the ability to see genetic counseling patients, and genetic counseling patients would consider meeting with a healthcare chaplain.

This study distributed an original electronic questionnaire to healthcare chaplains. An ancillary, original, electronic and paper/printed questionnaire was distributed to prenatal, pediatric, and cancer genetic counseling patients at Prisma Health – Midlands and The Greenwood Genetic Center, Greenwood campus. A mixture of percentages and frequencies were calculated as well as themes through a content analysis approach.

Data was collected from 253 healthcare chaplains (57.1% female; 41.6% male) and 110 genetic counseling patients (37.3% cancer; 9.1% general; 12.7% pediatric; 40.9% prenatal). Only 15.45% of healthcare chaplains claimed that a genetic counselor had referred a patient to them. More than 60% of healthcare chaplains felt comfortable, very comfortable, or extremely comfortable while discussing genetic syndromes or cancer susceptibility genes with patients and over 70% felt comfortable, very comfortable, or extremely comfortable with basic genetic concepts and medical terminology. Lastly, around 45% of genetic counseling patients stated they would consider meeting with a healthcare chaplain.

Healthcare chaplains feel comfortable in their knowledge and skill to meet with genetic counseling patients but are not currently being widely used by genetic counselors as a referral. Genetic counselors should consider referring select patients who may be experiencing spiritual distress to healthcare chaplains.


© 2022, Elizabeth G. Hollingsworth

Included in

Genetics Commons