Researchers discover patients with healthcare associated infections (HAIs) feel “dirty” or “like a leper” after diagnosis

12 September 2018

Researchers discover patients with healthcare associated infections (HAIs) feel “dirty” or “like a leper” after diagnosis

Professor Kay Currie

Many patients with healthcare associated infections (HAIs) reported feeling “like a leper”, “having the plague” or “dirty” after being diagnosed, according to a major new review carried out by researchers at the School of Health and Life Sciences.

The team looked at 17 studies from five different countries, focusing on experiences of patients with five common types of HAIs, including antibiotic-resistant superbug MRSA. There has been little research in Scotland on this topic.

The review concluded that the consequences of HAIs reach well beyond patients’ physical health, affecting relationships and leading some healthcare providers to distance themselves from patients who are carrying organisms that can lead to infections.

Lead study author, Kay Currie, Professor of Nursing and Applied Healthcare Research, said: “Within the review we looked at the experiences of people who were ill with infections such as  surgical wound infections or Clostridium difficile (C. diff), which was associated with 18 deaths at the Vale of Leven Hospital in Dunbartonshire between 2007 and 2008."

The findings of the review have paved the way for what is thought to be Scotland’s first in-depth study into how patients across the country cope with HAIs and how they’re treated by healthcare professionals.

Professor Currie is now leading this study: which is part of the ECONI (Evaluation of Cost of Nosocomial Infection) study, led by Professor Jacqui Reilly, examining the hospital, community and wider societal cost of HAI.

She added: “The review was a springboard for looking at the current patient experience in Scotland. We want to know if the findings from our review reflect what is happening in Scotland now, so we can generate guidelines or interventions to improve patient experience. The themes that came out of the review were the differing physical and emotional responses, the difficulties people had coping at home, the kind of responses they got from healthcare professionals, and that’s what we’ll be looking at.”.

“There has been very little research on the patient experience of HAIs conducted in Scotland and, as far as we are aware, this is the first in-depth qualitative study to comprehensively explore patient perspectives on their in-hospital care and post discharge experience for a range of HAIs. Understanding the patient experience can help healthcare professionals to interact and respond in a constructive way to patients with HAIs.”

The National Point Prevalence Survey (PPS), published last May, indicated the prevalence of HAI in acute hospitals in Scotland was 4.5 per cent, which was significantly lower than the previous five years, however, it still represents one in 22 patients at any one time, or 55,500 infections every year.

Professor Reilly said: “Healthcare associated infections (HAI) are an unintended consequence of healthcare and represent a significant threat to patient safety and to safe care, wherever that is delivered. There are also wider impacts for community care provisions and wider societal costs. The ECONI study is aiming to quantify these impacts and costs for the first time.”

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