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

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

18 Citations (Scopus)


Background: The global burden of health care–associated infection (HAI) is well recognized; what is less well known is the impact HAI has on patients. To develop acceptable, effective interventions, greater understanding of patients’ experience of HAI is needed. This qualitative systematic review sought to explore adult patients’ experiences of common HAIs. Methods: Five databases were searched. Search terms were combined for qualitative research, HAI terms, and patient experience. Study selection was conducted by 2 researchers using prespecified criteria. Critical Appraisal Skills Programme quality appraisal tools were used. Internationally recognized Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analyses guidelines were applied. The Noblit and Hare (1988) approach to meta-synthesis was adopted. Results: Seventeen studies (2001-2017) from 5 countries addressing 5 common types of HAI met the inclusion criteria. Four interrelated themes emerged: the continuum of physical and emotional responses, experiencing the response of health care 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 biosociocultural 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
Number of pages7
JournalAmerican Journal of Infection Control
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug. 2018


  • Health care–associated infection
  • Meta-synthesis
  • Patient's experience
  • Systematic review


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