Perceived Benefits and Barriers of Physician Volunteerism in Free Clinics

Jennifer Nielsen Fan, The University of Texas School of Public Health


Due to the problems of poor access to healthcare for many and concurrent high cost, the volunteer sector and free clinics, in particular, are explored for improving care in El Paso, Texas. The city is heavily affected by a large number of uninsured who are in need of assistance to gain access to healthcare. The object of this study was to measure and characterize the perceived benefits and barriers of volunteerism at free clinics among physicians in El Paso, with the intention to develop information that could be used by local clinics or politically-involved organizations to increase physician volunteerism. A 30-question survey requesting demographic information, motivating factors of volunteerism, barriers to volunteerism, and incentives to increasing volunteerism at free clinics was sent to over 600 physicians practicing in the area via fax, magazine, and in person. Fifty physicians returned the survey, a 7.8% response rate. This cohort was 70% male, 46% white (non-Hispanic), 52% primary care physicians, 60% Christian, 58% academic, and an average of 19.3 ± 12.6 years out of residency. They work an average of 48.5 ± 12.5 hours per week, 20% volunteer specifically at free clinics regularly, and 48% volunteer regularly in some setting. No demographic characteristics were found to be significantly associated with increased volunteering at free clinics. The strongest perceived barriers were time away from family and practice. People who did not volunteer regularly at free clinics were significantly more likely to perceive “Time away from practice” as a barrier (p=0.035). The strongest motivating factors were a desire to give back to the community, intrinsic values, and feeling good about oneself when volunteering. Those who did volunteer regularly at free clinics were significantly more likely to claim “Volunteering is part of my identity” as a motivating factor (p=0.011). The most popular incentives to increase volunteerism at free clinics were a tax refund or CME credit. In order to increase volunteerism in free clinics, leaders should capitalize on these significant motivating factors, reduce the greatest barriers, and increase practical incentives. A common theme among the significant variables was a desire for a low-hassle experience.

Subject Area

Social research|Public health|Public policy

Recommended Citation

Fan, Jennifer Nielsen, "Perceived Benefits and Barriers of Physician Volunteerism in Free Clinics" (2018). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI10789347.