Genetic Counseling

School of Health and Human Sciences

Rachel VeazeyGenetic Counselors’ Perspective on the Impact of Spanish-Speaking Interpreter-Mediated Sessions
Capstone Project Committee:  Alexandra Henshaw, MS, CGC, Rebecca Littlejohn, MS, CGC, Randi Stewart, MS, CGC
Background: Previous research has assessed the increasing need for interpreters in healthcare and the impact that Spanish-speaking interpreters have on physician-patient relationships.  Minimal research has focused on the impact upon genetic counseling.

Purpose: Goals of this study were to assess the impact that Spanish-speaking interpreters have on the genetic counseling process from the perspective of genetic counselors, and to describe strategies used to improve interpreting outcomes.

Methods: Twenty-four semi-structured telephone interviews with genetic counselors were conducted. Recruitment occurred via the National Society of Genetic Counselors student research eBlast. Thematic analysis by two investigators was performed.

Results: The majority of participants reported that the involvement of an interpreter increases patients’ comfort level, and alters the flow and length of a genetic counseling session.  Interpreters also increase challenges faced by genetic counselors, such as difficulty exploring patients’ psychosocial needs.  Most respondents reported that the content and goals of a session were not impacted.  The most frequently reported barrier to the genetic counseling process was inaccurate translation, which can lead to erroneous counseling.  The most common strategies employed were including open-ended questions, and altering speech patterns. 

Conclusion: This study showed that the impact that Spanish-speaking interpreters have on the genetic counseling process is multifaceted and complex. Most strategies used to ameliorate barriers are skills represented in the practice-based competencies for genetic counseling professionals, suggesting that genetic counselors have many tools to ease the interpretation process during genetic counseling sessions.
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