Puerto Rican women influenced more by quality of medical care than doctor's ethnicity

Among Puerto Rican women living in the United States, empathy (sympatia) and mutual respect (dignidad) are more important priorities in choosing a doctor than the doctor's ethnicity, according to a Penn State study.

"Only one-fifth of all Latino patients who see a Latino physician are influenced in their choice by the physician's ethnic background and only 40 percent are influenced by the ability of the physician to speak Spanish," says co-author Dr. R.S. Oropesa, associate professor of sociology and demography at Penn State. "Latino patients are attracted most by a doctor's cultural sensitivity, regardless of whether that doctor is Latino or non-Latino."

As the second largest Latino subgroup in the United States, Puerto Ricans are no exception to this rule. A careful analysis reveals that Puerto Rican women are not more satisfied with Latino physicians than with non-Latino physicians. Their level of satisfaction is, however, significantly influenced by the institutional settings where medical treatment is provided, characteristics of the medical staff, the delivery and content of care and the outcome of care.

"Two aspects of process that are especially important are the continuity and content of care. Continuity of care has to do with whether or not prenatal care was received from the same or different physicians. The content of care is reflected in the services rendered and advice given about vitamins, nutrition, breastfeeding and so forth," says co-author Dr. Nancy S. Landale, professor of sociology and demography at Penn State.

Oropesa, Landale and Tanya S. Kenkre, doctoral student in sociology at Penn State, presented their findings in the paper, "Structure, Process and Satisfaction with Obstetricians: An Analysis of Mainland Puerto Ricans," today (Aug. 19) at the annual conference of the American Sociological Association. The researchers surveyed 1,219 Puerto Rican women, weighing their levels of s

Contact: Paul Blaum
Penn State

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