Exploring the occurrence of microaggressions in the genetic counseling student-supervisor relationship: A mixed-methods study


While research has shown that genetic counseling students with minoritized racial or ethnic identities face microaggressions throughout graduate training, quantitative data regarding the frequency of these experiences have not been reported. The purpose of this mixed-methods study was to investigate the frequency and types of microaggressions experienced by graduates of accredited genetic counseling programs in the United States during fieldwork rotations. A quantitative survey was administered to assess how frequently 14 different types of microaggressions occurred in interactions with supervisors. Survey responses were analyzed using situation-based coding (the number of different types of microaggressions experienced) and frequency-based coding (the sum of participants' weighted Likert answers). Select survey respondents with minoritized identities were interviewed to better contextualize and categorize microaggression experiences. Analysis of 87 survey responses revealed that participants with minoritized racial and ethnic identities experience significantly more types of microaggressions (t(61) = 2.77; p = 0.007) at a significantly higher frequency (t(55) = 2.67; p = 0.010) than their white counterparts. Participants who identified as part of the disability community were also found to experience significantly more types of microaggressions (t(10) = 3.25; p = 0.009) at a significantly higher frequency (t(9) = 2.32; p = 0.045) than those who did not. Qualitative analysis of 11 interviews revealed that microaggressions from supervisors included offensive and inappropriate comments, unequal treatment, cultural intolerance, and disparaging feedback. Overall, our data present evidence that students with minoritized racial and ethnic identities and students with disabilities are subjected to a variety of inequitable, exclusionary, and harmful interactions. As a result, we recommend that all supervisors receive training about recognizing and preventing microaggressions to ensure that students are provided with an equitable and inclusive training experience, regardless of identity.

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