Little information exists in the literature to assist the nurse in understanding people of ethnic minority group status who become hospitalized in an acute-care setting. Research on these populations has primarily centred on out-patient service utilization and on folk health practices, yet the process of becoming hospitalized seems far more disruptive and traumatic to the individual and the family than receiving health care at a clinic. Observations made on a large medical-surgical in-patient unit in the south-western United States indicated the specific concerns Mexican American patients experienced during their hospitalization. Seventy patients of Mexican descent were followed through their hospital stay. Seven socio-cultural constructs influenced the hospital experience: social network, language proficiency, modesty, socio-economic status, role expectations, folk beliefs and practices, and the medical diagnosis. Economic and educational status were seen as the most significant factors preventing patients from this ethnic minority group from constructing their hospital experience in accordance with staff expectations.