Surgeons Who Treat High Proportion of Latino Patients Less Happy, Study Says

Surgeons whose patients are predominantly Latinos tend to be less happy with their jobs than their peers, a new study found.

Although the study didn’t look into why, researchers say it highlights the need for more minority surgeons.

The study, which looked into job satisfaction among U.S. surgeons, was first reported in the Annals of Surgery.

Senior researcher Satish P. Deshpande of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo said no similar patterns were seen among surgeons who treated mostly African American or Asian patients.

“Ninety six percent of surgeons are white, non-Hispanic. And we wanted to see if seeing largely minority patients had an impact on them,” Deshpande said.

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Why a large majority responded that they were unhappy was unclear. But Deshpande speculated it could be because many Latinos in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods are uninsured – thus the surgeons were likely making less money. Also, the language barrier could also be a factor, he said.

He said there was higher satisfaction among doctors who used translation services or had nurses who understood the cultural issues and language of the patient. While Hispanics are the largest minority group in the country – they make up about 16 percent of the total U.S. population – less than 5 percent of surgeons are Hispanic.

“Clearly, something needs to be done to reduce that ratio,” he said. “We need more minority physicians. And we need physicians that are more sensitive to cultural issues.”

For example, he said, if a non-Hispanic physician asks a Latino male to describe his pain from one to 10 – he might not know that Hispanic men like to act tough. So the patient is likely to respond two, when the pain is actually an eight.

“Non-Hispanic doctors won’t catch that – and they don’t know they should ask the family members, too,” Deshpande said. “And that will have a big impact on medication.”

Deshpande said the point of his study is to show that there needs to be more surgeons. And if that issue is not addressed, he said, there will be a dangerous shortage of surgeons in the next few years.

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Or on Twitter @SalazarLatino

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