Genetic Counseling

School of Health and Human Sciences

Alexandra HenshawSpanish-Speaking Medical Interpreters’ Understanding Of and Attitudes Towards Genetics and Genetic Counseling
Capstone Project Committee: Graciela Namihira-Alfaro, Pamela Reitnauer, MD, MPH, PhD, Randi Stewart, MS, CGC
Background: The Spanish-speaking population in the United States is growing, and the need for Spanish-speaking medical interpreters can be demonstrated ethically and legally. While many studies have researched interpreters in other medical specialties, there is a lack of literature regarding interpreters in genetics and genetic counseling sessions. Purpose: This exploratory project aimed to address the following research questions: What do interpreters know about genetics and genetic counseling, and where do they obtain this education? What do interpreters understand about the importance of genetics and genetic counseling? What attitudes do interpreters have about genetics and genetic counseling? Methods: This study was conducted through telephone interviews with Spanish-speaking medical interpreters recruited through three interpreter organizations in the triad region of North Carolina.  Nine participants completed telephone interviews. Interview responses were analyzed qualitatively by thematic analysis.  Results: Participants reported that genetic counseling is important because of patient education, psychological counseling, follow-up care, and patient decision-making.  The most common perceived barriers to nondirectiveness included patient education level and health care provider characteristics.  Terminology was the most frequently reported challenge for interpreting in genetic counseling sessions.  Sources of genetic counseling knowledge included previous science classes, previous interpreting experiences in genetic counseling, the Internet, and interpreter training. Discussion: Interpreters demonstrated a general knowledge and understanding of genetic counseling and its importance, but most lacked knowledge of the intricacies of the profession. The majority of participants discussed the importance of interpreter education in genetics and genetic counseling, and many expressed interest in training courses. All participants reported that genetic counseling was enjoyable and/or an important service. This information can be used to promote educational efforts for interpreters working with genetic counselors.
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