The development and preliminary evaluation of the Genetic Counseling Skills Checklist

Katherine N. Hehmeyer, Heather Zierhut, Robert Dedrick, Marleah Dean, Kathryn Schwarting, Katie Sullivan Bellia, Deborah Cragun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Genetic counseling (GC) relies on communication to help people understand and adapt to genetic contributions of disease, and there is need for a practical and reliable method of comprehensively documenting GC communication skills without intensive coding. To this end, we created a novel process measure called the Genetic Counseling Skills Checklist (GCSC), utilizing previously validated measures, communication/counseling frameworks, and prior research findings. A multistage iterative process was used to develop, evaluate, and modify the GCSC to improve its clarity, usability, and content validity. To assess interrater reliability, randomly assigned, untrained individuals (i.e., coders) used the GCSC version 3 to code multiple simulated GC sessions. Average measures intraclass correlation coefficients (ICCs) were calculated for each of the 8 GCSC process categories using one-way, random effects models. After relatively minor modifications to the GCSC, two pairs of experienced coders used GCSC version 4 to independently code additional GC sessions and Cohen's Kappa coefficients (κ) were calculated to assess interrater reliability for each process category. The GCSC contains five to eight items within each category and demonstrates good content validity given its ability to capture nearly all GC skills that genetic counselors reported using in a prior qualitative study. Interrater reliability of GCSC version 3 among coders with limited experience was moderate or good for 6 out of the 8 process categories as evidenced by ICCs ranging from 0.55 to 0.86. Average interrater reliability of GCSC version 4 among one pair of experienced coders was strong for all eight process categories (κ ranging from 0.82 to 0.94); among the second pair of experienced coders scores were strong for six categories (κ ranging from 0.80 to 0.87) and moderate for two categories (κ of 0.77 and 0.78). The results suggest the need for training and experience to assure adequate interrater reliability across GCSC coders. Future work is needed to create a formalized training program for coders, complete a larger study to further validate the measure, and use the GCSC to document variability in skills used across providers and sessions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Genetic Counseling
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 National Society of Genetic Counselors.


  • communication
  • genetic counseling
  • process measure
  • skills
  • strategies

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article


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