Study says hospital acquired infections can make patients ‘feel like lepers’

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Healthcare associated infections such as MRSA cause more than just physical distress for patients, according to a recent analysis. A new study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control, found many patients had emotional responses to diagnoses of hospital acquired infections, including “feeling dirty,” “having the plague” or “feeling like a leper.”

In their study, "Understanding the patient experience of health care-associated infection: A qualitative systematic review", researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland conducted a meta-synthesis of qualitative research. They looked at studies from five different countries addressing five common types of hospital acquired infections focusing on patient experiences of both colonization and infection from bacteria that commonly cause hospital acquired infections, the news release stated.

Study authors hope this research will encourage healthcare providers to look beyond just the medical treatment of hospital acquired infections and factor in the emotional experiences of patients diagnosed with such infections.

Providers also should consider the way patients feel about other people’s responses to the infection, including healthcare workers, researchers said. Although emotional responses varied based on the type of infection, one commonality persisted — fearing they might transmit their infection to others, according to the study.

Patients also expressed worry over working in certain professions for fear they might transmit the infection to colleagues.

“Having a hospital acquired infection is a significant event in the patient’s care journey and subsequent life that is influenced by biology, society and context,” Kay Currie, PhD, the paper’s lead author said in the news release. “Understanding the patient experience can help healthcare practitioners interact and respond in a constructive way, providing more effective support during this challenging time in a patient’s healthcare experience,” she said.

Other key findings researchers found include patients with healthcare associated infections having concerns about their interactions with healthcare providers. Patients reported being excluded from rehabilitation classes or being asked to wait until the end of clinic appointments to be seen.

“This qualitative review provides valuable insight into the patient perspective and how healthcare professionals can more effectively interact with their patients to enhance recovery in all areas of their lives,” the researchers added.