Journal of Genetic Counseling

, Volume 22, Issue 1, pp 58–75 | Cite as

Effects of Second Language Usage on Genetic Counseling Training and Supervision

  • Rachel VannesteEmail author
  • Sui Mei Chiu
  • Laura Russell
  • Jennifer Fitzpatrick
Original Research


We conducted an exploratory study of the experiences of genetic counselors who have either trained or supervised in a second language to assess the relevance of this issue to genetic counseling training and supervision. Two hundred-thirty NSGC members, CAGC members and genetic counseling students completed the online questionnaire. Many of the respondents reported that training and supervision differed when another language was involved. Supervisors reported difficulty in assessing students’ counseling skills and discomfort with an incomplete understanding of session content. Students described a greater focus on vocabulary at the expense of psychosocial dimensions. Despite this, most felt that using another language enhanced their training experience. As such, training programs might consider increasing support to these learners and supervisors by explicitly acknowledging the challenges they face, providing students with language tools to aid in their acquisition of basic skills and providing supervisors with new methods for assessing student counseling skills when using other languages.


Bilingualism Genetic counseling student supervision Language training Multicultural competence Recruitment Training 



This project would not have been possible without the aid of the many genetic counselors and students who completed the online questionnaire and those who participated in focus groups; our sincere thanks are extended to them. We would also like to acknowledge the Department of Human Genetics at McGill University for their funding and support of this project and Dr. Xun Zhang for his aid with the statistical analysis.

Finally, the first, third and fourth authors would like to acknowledge the loss of the second author, Sui Mei “Linda” Chiu, who died in November 2011. Sui Mei is remembered fondly as a wonderful genetic counselor, teacher and supervisor who supported numerous bilingual genetic counseling students over her many years of service. She will be greatly missed.


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Copyright information

© National Society of Genetic Counselors, Inc. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rachel Vanneste
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Sui Mei Chiu
    • 1
  • Laura Russell
    • 1
  • Jennifer Fitzpatrick
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Medical GeneticsMcGill University Health CentreMontrealCanada
  2. 2.Department of Human GeneticsMcGill UniversityMontrealCanada
  3. 3.Montreal Children’s HospitalMontrealCanada

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