I am a
Home I AM A Search Login

Papers of the Week

Papers: 13 May 2023 - 19 May 2023

Psychology, Sex/Gender/Race, Social Aspects

Human Studies



PLoS One




A qualitative assessment of factors contributing to Spanish-speaking federally qualified health center patients’ chronic pain experiences.


Bifulco L, Almonte S, Sosa S, Etemad L, Ruiz D, Blankson ML


People of Hispanic or Latino ethnicity (Latinx people) experience pain diagnosis, treatment, and care disparities relative to non-Latinx Whites. Those whose preferred language is Spanish may experience additional disparities when receiving care in a language-discordant environment. In order to better understand medically underserved Spanish-speaking Latinx patients’ pain care experience in primary care, we conducted semi-structured qualitative interviews with federally qualified health center staff members (n = 9) and Spanish-speaking adult Latinx patients with chronic pain (n = 12) to capture data on their perspectives. Interview data were mapped to the individual (microsystem), interpersonal (mesosystem), organizational (exosystem), and environmental (macrosystem) levels of Bronfenbrenner’s Ecological Systems Theory and analyzed using thematic content analysis informed by the Framework Method. Findings suggest that Spanish-speaking patients and English-speaking care team members may interpret information about pain state and severity differently, may have misaligned expectations about care, treatment methodologies, and treatment goals, and may experience difficulty forming a mutual understanding during health care encounters due to cross-linguistic and cross-cultural miscommunication. Patients preferred to describe their pain in words rather than with numbers or standardized scales, and both patients and frontline care team members expressed frustration with medical interpretation services, which added time and complexity to visits. Patients and health center staff emphasized the diversity of experiences among Spanish-speaking Latinx people, and the need to account for both linguistic and cultural differences during care encounters. Both groups supported hiring more Spanish-speaking, Latinx healthcare personnel who better resemble the patient population, which has the potential to improve linguistic and cultural concordance and competence, with the aim of improving care outcomes and patient satisfaction. Further study is warranted to examine how linguistic and cultural communication barriers impact pain assessment and treatment in primary care, the extent to which patients feel understood by their care teams, and their confidence in their ability to understand and interpret treatment recommendations.