An Exploration of the Interplay between Students' Religious Beliefs and their Genetic Counseling Graduate Training
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AbstractReligion contributes greatly to the personal values of many genetic counselors. Subsequently, these values may directly influence their clinical work. However, there is a lack of research regarding the influence of personal religious beliefs on genetic counselors’ professional training. The purpose of this study was to explore the influence of graduate students’ religious beliefs on their professional genetic counseling training and the influences of the training process on students’ religious beliefs. We recruited first and second-year students enrolled in accredited genetic counseling programs who also identified with an organized religious tradition and randomly selected 10 to participate in phone interviews. The interviews explored both anticipated and actual experiences. Results were analyzed using Atlas.ti software and indicated that the most common positive influence experienced as a result of students’ religious beliefs was the use of their religious values to maintain their own morale and/or to support their patients. Pregnancy termination was the issue that most commonly conflicted with students’ religious beliefs and led many to avoid discussions about genetic counseling with their religious community. Most students felt comfortable discussing their religious beliefs with faculty or classmates, unless these individuals openly disagreed that religion plays a role in health care. With regard to their future plans, many students reported that they prefer not to work in a prenatal setting. Those who rated low in intrinsic religiosity, however, felt that their religious values would not influence future employment. Many students felt that their training was a positive outlet for their religious beliefs, while others questioned religion when patients used their own spirituality as a protective mechanism against medical information. Further research is needed to identify ways in which training program curricula can minimize the conflicts and promote the strengths of religious beliefs for students who identify with an organized religious tradition.
Brandeis University, Graduate School of Arts and Sciences