Interview with Karen, nurse from Chapel Hill, NC
MRSAsupportgroup.org:
Can you give us a quick biography?

Karen:
I'm 45 years old and have been a nurse for 22  years.  I have worked in a variety of
specialties from the Operating Room and Special Procedures to Intensive Care.  I
found a home in 'Protective Care' where the majority of our patient population has
infectious diseases that require isolation.  Not to brag but giving my entire C.V. would
be longer than this interview so I'll spare you that.  I am exposed to a lot of germs
every day.  Although I have done a lot of reading about 'bugs' like MRSA (methicillin
resistant staphylococcus aureus), it seems as if the www.MRSAsupportgroup.org site
has the most balanced and useful information on the subject that I have seen yet.  
From diet and prevention to treatments and cures.  Since finding out about the site I
have referred to it several times. Thank You SOO MUCH.  
(wow, thank YOU Karen!)  

How often do you knowingly come in contact with patients who have MRSA?
Every day at work we have at least 1 patient that has been cultured positive for MRSA.

How concerned are you for your own health while in contact with MRSA infected or
colonized patients?
I stay healthy and active and drink some Kefir almost every day. I'm not real concerned
about my own health but worry about our patient's that are immuno-comprimised (can
get sick easily)

Does the hospital you work in have a specific protocol for finding out if a patient is
colonized prior to admission/treatment?
Cultures are supposed to be done on planned transfers from other healthcare facilities
but this isn't always done because its not always practical.

What is the protocol, if any, for patients who are MRSA colonized (not infected)?
We use full Contact Isolation procedures.

What is the protocol for patients who are openly infected (wound sites, boils, etc)?
We use full Contact Isolation procedures and I think we all probably go an extra step (for example
wash for a minute instead of 30 seconds) when we see open infections.

Many MRSA patients who have been admitted to a hospital report large gaps in
quarantine precautions from staff members.  For example, one doctor will wear full
protective gear while the next will come in with nothing.  Why do you think that is?
 
I'm not making excuses for that, it only takes a few seconds to put on the required
garb, but physicians have years of training not only in medicines and physiology, but
in chemistry and microbiology. It may be safe to say that some of them know enough
about MRSA to “safely” break the rules.  I'm not saying it's right because if a doctor
walks into the room to ask some questions and walks out without something on that is
required it sets a bad example (if nothing else). However, hospitals have made it very
easy to report staff that break isolation rules and seem very proactive in this regard
.

Do you believe the protocol/precautions are helping?
That has been a debate since day one and I don't know the answer. Some hospitals
I've worked in don't isolate MRSA, some do and I personally don't notice a difference in
the patient outcomes.

What is the general attitude of your co-workers (doctors, nurses, administration)
towards MRSA or MRSA patients
(i.e. fearful, confident)?
I think we're mostly confident. I've worked around it for over 20 years and have never
had any problems that I knew of from it.

Do you feel that you have been adequately informed about MRSA from your
employers (or the hospital you work in)?  What changes, if any, do you think would
help in your hospital?
All of the hospitals I have worked in give general guidance, mostly on specific isolation
and urge us to be sure to follow universal precautions.

Nurses and health care workers who contract CA-MRSA are often worried about their
future in the medical field.  Do you have any helpful advice?
I have read about that but have never seen a health care worker have problems (that
they are AWARE OF) from MRSA. Unless there was a documented exposure it would
be very difficult to know or prove any MRSA was from work. My best advice is to
exercise and drink Kefir and eat a lot of greens!

How do you personally maintain your health while working a hospital environment?
I eat well and exercise and take a multivitamin when I remember.

Do you do anything special to protect/maintain you and your family’s health?
I have always made a conscious effort to take off my scrubs when I get home before
sitting down anywhere and leave my shoes at the door but that's about it.

Thank you, Karen, for sharing your experiences and insight with us!