Effects of Anxiety on Novice Genetic Counseling Students’ Experience of Supervised Clinical Rotations

Ian M. MacFarlane, Pat Mccarthy Veach, Janelle E. Grier, Derek J. Meister, Bonnie S. LeRoy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


Supervised clinical experiences with patients comprise a critical component of genetic counseling student education. Previous research has found genetic counseling students tend to be more anxiety prone than the general population, and anxiety related to supervision has been found in genetic counseling and related fields. The present study investigated how anxiety affects the experience of supervision for genetic counseling students. Second year genetic counseling students were invited to participate through email invitations distributed via training directors of the 33 programs accredited at the time of the study by the American Board of Genetic Counseling. An initial online survey contained the trait scale of the State-Trait Anxiety Inventory to estimate anxiety proneness in this population and an invitation to participate in a 45-minute semi-structured phone interview focusing on students’ experiences of supervision during their clinical rotations. High and low trait anxiety groups were created using STAI scores, and the groups’ interview responses were compared using consensual qualitative research methodology (CQR; Hill 2012). The high anxiety group was more likely to describe problematic supervisory relationships, appreciate the supervisor’s ability to help them when they get stuck in sessions, and feel their anxiety had a negative effect on their performance in general and in supervision. Common themes included supervisors’ balancing support and guidance, the importance of feedback, ego-centric responses, and supervisors as focal points. The results of the present study are largely consistent with current literature. Further research findings and research, practice, and training recommendations are provided.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)742-766
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Genetic Counseling
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1 2016


  • Anxiety
  • Consensual qualitative research (CQR)
  • Genetic counseling student
  • Professional development
  • Supervision
  • Training


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