Sensational MRSA Headline

How our hospitals unleashed a MRSA epidemic | Seattle Times Newspaper

It says it right there:  MRSA is the fault of hospitals.  If it wasn’t for hospitals, MRSA wouldn’t be so prevalent, wouldn’t be so deadly or such a large issue.  Right.  What a crock of shit.

It mentions nothing abot the over-prescribing of antibiotics.  Nothing of the emergence of the USA300 clone of MRSA in community-acquired infections.  Nothing of the reality that this is based on environmental pressure on the bugs that cause them to acquire resistance in the first place.  No, it’s the hospitals’ fault.

Now I will give due.  We suck when it comes to handling these issues.  And we can do better.  Unfortunately this is a multi-factorial issue and difficult to address whitout pointing fingers.  Wahing hands?  We don’t do it nearly enough.  And nurses aren’t the only culprits.

Physicians can be the most lackadaisical about infection control.

In April 2006, doctors at the UW Medical Center carried personal items from home into sterile operating rooms and dropped them on the floor. These items included backpacks and satchels, made of porous materials friendly to germs. Hospital administrators told inspectors this was “common practice.”

In November 2006, a physician at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma removed his surgical mask during an operation. He had complained it was uncomfortable. Hospital officials told inspectors the physician was a “repeat” violator and had been warned before to keep his mouth and nose covered.

In hospitals, the most common violation is the failure to wash hands upon entering or leaving a patient’s room.

In the worst cases, as few as 40 percent of staff members comply with hand-washing standards. Doctors are the worst offenders, according to confidential hospital records reviewed by The Times.

I’ve lost track of times I’ve seen docs walk into isolation rooms and not don any PPE.  VRE?  MRSA?  C.DIff?  Not a problem, it seems their white coats magically protect them from the all but the worst offenders.  Not to mention becoming a vector in their own right.

While measures like presumptive isolation, isolating anyone who has ever had MRSA, screening everyone on admit my help to slow the rise of the germ in hospitals, it does nothing to prevent it coming from the outside.  All of the MRSA patients I have taken care of, have had it on admit.   It’s why they were there.  In a perfect world, we would have private rooms or all patients.  There would be a fast bedside screening tool for MRSA and other community-acquired resistant germs.  Rooms would be cleaned appropriately and thoroughly.  We would all wash our hands or use foams/gels every single time.  But it’s not a perfect world.  Even in our new unit we have double rooms.  Even though our housekeepers do a pretty good job, there is still the risk of acquiring MRSA from a previous occupant just on odds alone.  It is going to happen.

One problem the article doesn’t address is the rise of the USA300 clone that is present in nearly 97% of community-acquired MRSA infections, most notably in skin and soft tissue infections.  This virulent and nasty strain, with its included Panton-Valentin Leukocidin exotoxin can cause necrotizing fascitis, sepsis and pneumonia.  It’s nasty. But again, like any MRSA, good hand hygeine and terminal room cleaning can help to prevent its transmission inside hospital walls.

While hospitals may have covered up cases and mortality due to MRSA, as shown pretty damningly in the Times article, this not just a focused problem.  It is a multi-systemic issue that reaches across disciplines.  Therefore its going to take a multi-system effort to combat it.



  1. My 13 yr old nephew was admitted with MRSA last week. Image my surprise when his Mother told me that she was allowed to come and go in and out of his room as she pleased, to the cafateria, to the gift shop, etc. Never once was she told the importance of washing her hands. She didnt grasp the severity of his infection and was upset that my family didnt pile into the car to visit. Shes not the sharpest tack…

    When I tried to explain MRSA to her she said if it realy was so dangerous the nurses would have worn gloves…


  2. That’s exactly part of the problem. Family members are not informed of the extent of the problem. It makes it worse when the health care providers involved treat the issue with such nonchalance.


  3. Do you participate in your organization’s nursing self-governance organization? Are you a member of the infection control committee? How does your nursing department influence and direct interdisciplinary initiatives to address the concerns you mentioned?

    Where is nursing’s influence, autonomy, authority and control over patient and family teaching and direct community involvement?

    Who is influential in your organization in advancing nurses’ agenda and advocating for patients?

    Lastly, did you address any of these issues in your nursing education curriculum? If so, in what courses and in what way(s)? (clinical practica, lectures, research, community service, etc)

    Interesting perspective about how you perceive some of the stakeholders and what the consequences of the “do nothing” policy have been.


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