11:19pm Saturday 16 November 2019

Ignorance leads to stigmatization of patients with MRSA

Healthcare providers around the world are devoting a great deal of efforts to limit transmission of MRSA. In Sweden alone, a total of 2,454 people acquired meticillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) last year— almost half in Sweden, usually outside healthcare settings. In many other countries, MRSA is transmitted primarily in hospitals and other healthcare facilities; most Swedes who acquire the infection abroad are receiving inpatient care at the time.

Isolation of patients

Swedish law requires isolation of patients with MRSA who need to be hospitalized. Because MRSA is controlled under the Communicable Diseases Act, infected patients are obligated to inform about having MRSA and permit the source to be traced.

Eva Skyman’s doctoral thesis explores patient perceptions of these strict regulations and the impact of their interactions with caregivers on their day-to-day lives. Her study includes more than 200 patients who have acquired MRSA over the past ten years.

Stimatization and victimization

The questionnaires and follow-up in-depth interviews reveal a pattern of stigmatization and victimization. Patients often mentioned time and time again that information, about the the ways that MRSA is transmitted and the dangers it poses, was often contradictory or scanty.

The patients experienced that their caregivers frequently turned out to be both ignorant and feared.

“As a result, patients assumed an incredible amount of personal responsibility to avoid passing the infection on to others, even outside the hospital,” Ms. Skyman says. “One of them commented, ‘I want to make sure that nobody else ever has to go through what I’ve experienced.'”

A need for more knowledge

The study also found that many patients were traumatized by isolation but accepted it nonetheless. The staff at the Infectious Disease clinics and others with specialized training were generally more knowledgeable and better informed. Patients felt more secure and less invaded in their presence.

“If we want to keep up with the rapid increase in the occurrence of resistant bacteria, both in Sweden and around the world,” Ms. Skyman says, “we will have to learn more about how they are transmitted, as well as what patients are forced to endure. Caregivers, patients and the general public all need to be involved in the effort.”

Ms. Skyman have defend her thesis—Consequences of Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus Aureus (MRSA) Acquisition: Patient Experiences and Interactions in Health Care and Daily Life—on November 26.

Link to thesis


“The staff is afraid—they treat me like a leper as though they wish I wasn’t there.”

“The worst thing about it is all the mixed messages that I am given”

“It was a very difficult time—they locked me up behind double doors and didn’t let me out to see anyone else.” (about care in isolation)

“Now a days, our family is afraid to hug and kiss each other “

“The infectious disease clinic really calmed me down—they treated me respectfully and gave me all the information I needed.”

Eva Skyman, doctoral student, Department of Infectious Diseases, Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg, Infection Control Nurse, Sahlgrenska University Hospital, phone +46 736-889 361, eva.skyman@vgregion.se
Supervisor: Christina Åhrén, Department of Infectious Diseases, Sahlgrenska Academy, Regional Medical Officer, Chair, Strama VGR, phone +46 702-182 814, christina.ahren@vgregion.se

BY: Krister Svahn
031 786 38 69

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