Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

Heide Castañeda, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Roberta Baer, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Nancy Romero-Daza, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Jason W. Wilson, M.D.


emergency medicine, health literacy, patient satisfaction, physician-patient communication, Spanish-speaking patients


This exploratory mixed-methods study examines the experiences of Spanish-speaking patients seeking non-urgent care in an emergency department setting. Emphasis is placed on understanding variables that influence patient satisfaction among this particular special patient population. This study draws from the explanatory models of illness and perspectives of clinically applied anthropology in contributing to the limited body of scholarly work that utilizes ethnographic approaches in clinical spaces to investigate how patients experience seeking emergency care services. Health-related deservingness, social determinants of health, and health literacy are used as complementary frameworks in understanding the unique experiences of these patients. The combination of methodological approaches employed in this study included: participant observation (120+ hours), patient shadowing (40 hours, N=10), administration of a modified patient satisfaction survey (N=100), semi-structured interviews (N=25), and retrospective analysis of existing patient satisfaction data from the research site. Quantitative findings generally indicate high degrees of satisfaction among this particular patient population, with statistically significant differences when compared to English-speaking patients. Quantitative data also indicate how modality of communication with this patient population is important to consider in terms of patient comprehension and perceived levels of care/attention demonstrated by hospital staff. The qualitative findings from this project highlight the similarities in explanatory models of illness between this patient population and emergency medical providers. Qualitative data additionally elucidates many of the barriers Spanish-speaking patients face when seeking out non-urgent care such as: limitations in exercising individual autonomy when communicating with medical staff, self-blame for not being able to effectively articulate their symptoms and concerns, as well as lack of clarity in understanding follow-up care plans. The results from this study call for addressing issues pertaining to health literacy, specifically at the end of the clinical encounter when follow-up care and treatment plans are explained to patients.