More people in the US now die from Methicillin Resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) infections than from HIV/AIDS. Often acquired in healthcare facilities or during healthcare procedures, the extremely high incidence of MRSA infections and the dangerously low levels of literacy regarding antibiotic resistance in the general public are on a collision course. Traditional medical approaches to infection control and the conventional attitude healthcare practitioners adopt toward public education are no longer adequate to avoid this collision. This study helps us understand how people acquire and process new information and then adapt behaviours based on learning. Methods
Using constructivist theory, semi-structured face-to-face and phone interviews were conducted to gather pertinent data. This allowed participants to tell their stories so their experiences could deepen our understanding of this crucial health issue. Interview transcripts were analysed using grounded theory and sensitizing concepts. Results
Our findings were classified into two main categories, each of which in turn included three subthemes. First, in the category of Learning, we identified how individuals used their Experiences with MRSA, to answer the questions: What was learned? and, How did learning occur? The second category, Adaptation gave us insights into Self-reliance, Reliance on others, and Reflections on the MRSA journey. Conclusions
This study underscores the critical importance of educational programs for patients, and improved continuing education for healthcare providers. Five specific results of this study can reduce the vacuum that currently exists between the knowledge and information available to healthcare professionals, and how that information is conveyed to the public. These points include: 1) a common model of MRSA learning and adaptation; 2) the self-directed nature of adult learning; 3) the focus on general MRSA information, care and prevention, and antibiotic resistance; 4) the interconnected nature of adaptation; and, 5) the need for a consistent step by step plan to deal with MRSA provided at the time of diagnosis. Background
Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) first emerged as a serious infectious threat in the late 1960s as the bacterium developed resistance to the synthetic form of penicillin known as methicillin . Although the Staphylococci bacteria, including MRSA, commonly colonize the skin of healthy people, often posing little to no threat, these bugs are quick to exploit any opportunity to invade wounds, nasal passageways, or mucosal membranes where they can rapidly produce infections that can become life threatening. It is not surprising then, that MRSA has been the focus of intense scientific and political interest around the world [2,3] and has frequently been labeled as a superbug in the popular media . As the number of MRSA infections acquired both within healthcare facilities and, more recently, in community settings that bring large numbers of people into close proximity have increased, research has begun to focus on levels of public awareness and misperceptions connected with MRSA. In particular, this decade has produced a number of significant studies in the United Kingdom and Europe that have investigated public perceptions and the role played by the popular media as purveyors of information. As recently as 2006, a study conducted in the UK  found that 68% of the lay people they surveyed acquired their knowledge of MRSA from a combination of television and newspapers. An earlier qualitative study reported a lingering level of confusion in patients being treated for a MRSA infection, that persisted even after information about the infection had been provided by healthcare professionals . These findings are further supported by a 2007 investigation into public awareness and attitudes which reported "the media [continues to act] as a conduit between medical and...
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