Understanding the patient experience of health-care associated infection: a qualitative systematic review

Kay Currie*, Lynn Melone, Sally Stewart, Caroline King, Arja Holopainen, Alex M. Clark, Jacqui Reilly

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

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Background: The global burden of healthcare associated infection (HAI) is well-recognised; what is less well known is the impact HAI has on patients. In order to develop acceptable, effective interventions, greater understanding of patients’ experience of HAI is needed.

Objectives: This qualitative systematic review sought to explore adult patients’ experiences of common healthcare associated infections.

Methods: Five databases were searched. Search terms were combined for qualitative research, HAI terms and patient experience. Study selection was conducted by two researchers using pre-specified criteria. CASP quality appraisal tools were used. Internationally recognised PRISMA guidelines were applied. Noblit & Hare’s (1988) approach to meta-synthesis was adopted.

Results: Seventeen studies (2001-17) from five countries addressing five common types of HAI met the inclusion criteria. Four inter-related themes emerged: ‘the continuum of physical and emotional responses’; ‘experiencing the response of healthcare professionals’; ‘adapting to life with an HAI’; and ‘the complex cultural context of HAI’.

Conclusions: The impact of different HAIs may vary; however, there are many similarities in the experience recounted by patients. The bio-socio-cultural context of ‘contagion’ was graphically expressed, with potential impact on social relationships and professional interactions highlighted. Further research to investigate contemporary patient experience in an era of antimicrobial-resistance is warranted.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)936-942
JournalAmerican Journal of Infection Control
Issue number8
Early online date3 Feb 2018
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2018


  • healthcare associated infection
  • patient’s experience
  • systematic review
  • meta-synthesis

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