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

By | 2020-04-15T16:48:58-04:00 March 20th, 2019|2 Comments

Healthcare associated infections such as MRSA cause more than just physical distress for patients, according to a recent analysis.

The study, published in the American Journal of Infection Control, a journal of the Association of Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology, found many patients had emotional responses to diagnoses of hospital acquired infections, including “feeling dirty,” “having the plague” or “feeling like a leper.”

Researchers at Glasgow Caledonian University in Scotland conducted a meta-synthesis of qualitative research, according to a news release on the study.

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 coworkers.

“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.”

Hospital acquired infections are declining

The good news is hospital acquired infections are declining, according to recent data from the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality. The group reported in January the rate of such infections went down 13% between 2014 and 2017.

The reduction saved providers $7.7 billion and prevented 20,500 hospital deaths, according to a Jan. 29 article in Modern Healthcare.

The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid services set a goal of reducing hospital acquired conditions by 20% from 2014 to 2019, which could result in 53,000 fewer deaths and save $19.1 billion in hospital costs, Modern Healthcare reported.

“As one in every 25 hospitalized patients in the United States is diagnosed with a hospital acquired infection, it is critical to understand the long-lasting impact of such infections not just from a physical perspective, but also from a social and emotional perspective,” 2018 APIC President Janet Haas, PhD, RN, CIC, FSHEA, FAPIC, said in the APIC news release.

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,” Haas added.

Take these courses on hospital acquired infections:

Antimicrobial Resistance and Healthcare Acquired Infections
(1 contact hr)
Rising trends in antimicrobial resistance is a costly and significant contributor to negative health consequences in the United States and worldwide. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) recognizes this impact and will now penalize hospitals with high rates of acquired Methicillin-resistant S. aureus (MRSA) and C. difficile infections in an effort to promote proper antimicrobial stewardship and infection control policies. With proper education, development and use of effective protocols, and close monitoring, the interprofessional care team can have a substantial impact on improving patient outcomes and reducing healthcare costs.

Prevention of Infection: Surgical Site Infections
(1 contact hr)
Surgical Site Infections (SSIs) are a concerning, expensive, and prevalent hospital-acquired infection problem. Come learn about the incidence and state of SSIs in the US and how interventions to decrease the incidence of SSIs are affecting outcomes. Are SSI’s preventable or an unfortunate expectation in healthcare?

Prevention of Infection: The Buzz Around Chlorhexidine Gluconate (CHG) and CLABSI
(1 contact hr)
According to CDC, Central Line-Associated Bloodstream Infection (CLABSI) is a cause of preventable death. Thousands of people die annually from CLABSI-related issues. In addition, CLABSI leads to increased healthcare expenses estimated to be in the billions! What are best practice recommendations for preventing CLABSI? Prevention education, chlorhexidine gluconate (CHG), and decreasing femoral vein use in some situations have been noted as strategic interventions for preventing CLABSI.


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About the Author:

Heather Cygan
Heather Cygan is content development manager for, a Relias company. She was named among the 2018 Top Women in Healthcare Marketing by Digital Megaphone. The recognition honors the work of female marketers leading the way in the healthcare industry. Heather has been developing healthcare content for more than 10 years and has a bachelors of arts degree in journalism from Eastern Illinois University.


  1. Avatar
    Jeff Gabbay November 15, 2019 at 1:16 am - Reply

    Sirs, My name is Dr. Jeff Gabbay. I am a textile engineer who also studied Pathology and Infectious Diseases. Most or our work has been for the Department of Defense and one of the developments now has a civilian/consumer end use. To that extent, our group has been working on the issue of hospital acquired infections. To that end we have developed a fabric which is self-sterilizing. This is an absolute value, not anti-microbials where bacteria come back. The ability of the fabric to kill ALL bacteria (including C. diff and Candida Auris) have been proven. In a test done in the USA at the U. of Penn. Medical School hospital we succeeded in reducing MDROs by 50%. This data will be published shortly. The issue has to do now with the protection of the nurses themselves who don’t realize it bu tare actually human vectors in the hospital (60% of all employees in the hospital will have pathogens on their uniforms after 1 day. 6-7% will have MRSA on their uniforms. We solve this issue with the new fabric which looks and feels like a normal fabric. To see what we do please visit our web site at We are located in Israel but are opening a USA division. I’m not soliciting anything with this email. Just letting nurses know what is coming down the road because as bacteria mutate more and more their personal health and the health of their families become a serious issue.

  2. Avatar
    Arthur Westmann December 2, 2019 at 9:39 am - Reply

    Hospital-acquired infection, Hospital infection or nosocomial infection is a term applied to infections occurring in hospitalized patients who were neither infected nor were in incubation at the time of their admission to the hospital. About 5% of hospitalized patients suffer from nosocomial infection. Nosocomial infections is an important public health problem and is a major cause of high morbidity, mortality and economic consequences for hospital patients in developing countries like the developed ones today.

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