Paula Delk, Isabella Bowling, Courtney Schroeder, Theodore E. Wilson, Melissa Wesson, Leah Wetherill
Professionalism in health care is a loosely defined but increasingly studied concept. In genetic counseling, “professional development” expectations for entry-level genetic counselors are described in the “Practice-Based Competencies for Genetic Counselors,” but the teaching and evaluation of “professionalism” among genetic counseling students is relatively unexplored. This study investigated program leaders' and clinical supervisors' perceptions of professionalism demonstrated by genetic counseling graduate students to learn about their associated strengths and lapses. Members of program leadership and clinical supervisors at Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC) accredited genetic counseling graduate programs in the United States and Canada were surveyed regarding their observations of genetic counseling students for the years 2017–2019 regarding four domains of professional behavior: integrity, accountability/conscientiousness, teamwork, and patient care, with the Merriam-Webster definition of each behavior provided for each domain. Participants also provided open-text descriptions. Descriptive results showed that the 263 participants found all facets of these professional behaviors to be essential. Patient care had the highest importance and was the domain with the most strengths observed among genetic counseling students. Lapses in professional behavior were identified for self-awareness, time management, and thoroughness. Free responses noted that suggestions or strategies for education about professional behavior from ACGC may improve the professional behavior of genetic counseling students and in turn, genetic counselors. Participants voiced the importance of consideration of diverse professional and cultural backgrounds in setting the expectations for professional behavior among genetic counseling students and genetic counselors so that “professionalism” in genetic counseling is not defined through a White lens. Further investigation into challenges that genetic counseling students face regarding professional behavior during their graduate training and strategies for education about these behaviors will aid in the growth and improvement of the training of genetic counselors. Given the sensitive nature of this topic, portions of this discussion may be triggering for some readers.
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