Challenges faced by program administrators when training international genetic counseling students

The effect of globalization has resulted in a diverse population of patients that healthcare professionals treat today, and this has led to challenges in the fields of nursing, psychology, and other healthcare professions. Genetic Counseling is faced with similar challenges and these can be countered by increasing diversity and cultural sensitivity in the profession. One potential but not the only method is to increase the presence of international students in the genetic counseling programs. Studies in the past have looked at the issues and challenges faced by students in fields such as genetic counseling, nursing, and clinical psychology. These studies acknowledge the benefits of having international students in the training program as they increase the cultural awareness of the training program and in turn the profession. On the other hand, cultural differences and communication challenges add to the complexity of training international students in healthcare professions. This study aims to look at the previously unexplored side of the program administrators, and assess their perspectives on the training of the international genetic counseling students. Aims: 1. Identify themes that describe the experiences of program administrators and clinical supervisors while training international students.2. Develop recommendations to help program administrators and international students to prepare for these challenges and increase their success in the training program. Methods: For the purposes of this study, participants were supposed to be Program Administrators of Masters level genetic counseling programs accredited by the Accreditation Council for Genetic Counseling (ACGC) and located in the United States and Canada for at least 6 months. In the context of this study, international students are students or applicants who are not from the United States or Canada. A semi-structured interview guide was developed. All the Program administrators were contacted by sending out an email through the Association of Genetic Counseling Program Directors (AGCPD) listserv. These semi-structured interviews were transcribed verbatim and analyzed to identify emerging themes. Results and Conclusions: It was found that about 5-10% of the applicant pool applying to the genetic counseling training programs is international. The data generated from the interviews were organized into four categories: 1) Motivation to accept international students, 2) Application and admissions process, 3) Challenges during training, and 4) Experiences post-graduation. The Program administrators identified that international students take more time and effort when they are a part of the cohort. Assessing international applicants for a position in the genetic counseling programs is time-consuming. Even though the overall assessments employed for these applicants are the same as those employed for domestic students, international applicants need to be assessed on a much deeper level to ensure the success of the students and the program. Most challenges encountered during the training of these students arise due to differences in the previous education system, lack of language proficiency, unfamiliarity with the healthcare system and cultural differences. Despite facing these challenges, the overarching sentiment has been that having an international student in the classroom is rewarding and worth the time.