Rural Kansas Family Physician Satisfaction with Caring for Spanish-Speaking Only Patients


  • Theresia Neill, B.S. University of Kansas School of Medicine-Salina
  • Gretchen Irwin, M.D., MBA University of Kansas School of Medicine-Wichita, Department of Family and Community Medicine, Family Medicine Residency Program, Wesley Medical Center
  • C. Scott Owings, M.D. University of Kansas School of Medicine-Salina
  • William Cathcart-Rake, M.D. University of Kansas School of Medicine-Salina



language barrier, Hispanics, job satisfaction, rural health services


Introduction. Patient satisfaction with the care they receive can be
influenced negatively by a language barrier between the physician and
patient. However, there is a paucity of information regarding the consequences
of a language barrier on physician satisfaction, although
this barrier has the potential to decrease physician wellness. This
study sought to determine if a language barrier is a source of professional
dissatisfaction in family medicine physicians in rural Kansas.

Methods. In a cross-sectional study, members of the Kansas Academy
of Family Physicians who practiced in the rural Kansas counties
with the highest percentage of Hispanic residents were surveyed. A
questionnaire was developed to determine the demographics of the
physician, details regarding his or her practice, and percentage of Hispanic
and Spanish-speaking only (SSO) patients in their practice.
Physicians also were queried as to their level of Spanish-speaking
ability, availability of certified interpreters, and their satisfaction with
caring for their SSO patients.

Results. Fifty-two physicians were identified and sent questionnaires
by mail. Eighteen questionnaires were completed and returned, resulting
in a 34% response rate. Respondents remained anonymous. In the
practices surveyed, 61% of practice settings had a Hispanic-patient
population greater than 25%. Only one of the eighteen respondents
had greater than 25% of SSO patients in his or her practice. A certified
interpreter was used less than 25% of the time in over 75% of
the clinical encounters with SSO patients. Seventy-five percent of
physicians reported no difficulty establishing trust and rapport with
their SSO patients. Eighty-nine percent of respondents rated their
relationship with SSO patients as good to excellent, and 83% were
satisfied with the care they were able to provide this group. Seventyeight
percent of respondents reported that their ability to care for
SSO patients decreased or had no effect on their professional satisfaction.
Seventy-eight percent of physicians also rated their overall
professional satisfaction in regards to their physician/patient relationship
as good to excellent. However, language barriers affected
physician-patient relationships, physician satisfaction with care, and
professional satisfaction.

Conclusion. Language barrier affected physician’s relationships with
SSO patients, led to decreased physician satisfaction with the care
they provided and to decreased professional satisfaction.
KS J Med 2017;10(4):79-83.




How to Cite

Neill, T., Irwin, G., Owings, C. S., & Cathcart-Rake, W. (2019). Rural Kansas Family Physician Satisfaction with Caring for Spanish-Speaking Only Patients. Kansas Journal of Medicine, 10(4), 79–83.



Original Research