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'We were asked if MRSA could be acquired from a goldfish'

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Nursing Times award winners on the role of patient liaison nurses in infection control.

The patient liaison nurse was established in 2005 as a dedicated MRSA liaison nurse in the infection prevention and control department, the very first post of its kind in the UK, and funded by Royal Free Hospital (RFH) League of Friends. Initially the post was to be a one year secondment, but following an extremely encouraging response from patients and staff, funding was secured and the post became permanent in 2006.  Since then the role has evolved into patient liaison nurse, and due to increasing demands an assistant patient liaison nurse was recruited in July 2009.

The role is patient focused and offers support to patients, their relatives and all health care professionals in providing information, advice and education relating to what course of action to take when a patient is identified as being a positive carrier. A significant aspect of our work involves seeing patients in our outpatients clinic in preparation for admission. Patients here receive from us the products needed to address MRSA colonisation as per protocol, information, our contact details and, most importantly, reassurance. We approach MRSA in a positive way to dispel any preconceived ideas and myths. On one occasion we were asked if MRSA could be acquired from a goldfish!  We’re also frequently asked by patients if they can hug their children or grandchildren – at which point we prescribe lots of hugs and kisses.

“On one occasion we were asked if MRSA could be acquired from a goldfish”

Early responses from staff took different forms, one of which seemed to thrust us in the position of ‘Infection Control Police’, there probably were many more titles for us that are better left unsaid!  Now, however, we are welcomed and staff understand that it is cohesive working that will bring about a reduction in health care associated infections.

A large part of our work includes conversing with patients by telephone. There are many occasions when we receive calls from individuals or their relatives who are quite put out once they’ve learnt that they are MRSA positive, and very anxious. By chatting with them in a relaxed way, there is a noticeable difference in their voices at the end of the phone call. On admission we then follow patients up on the ward which enables putting faces to names, always a good experience, and we’re greeted as friends. We feel we have built up an effective rapport with many GPs and district nurses who are keen to work in partnership with us to provide a seamless service. 

The responsibilities of the role have recently expanded to incorporate patients who have acquired Clostridium difficile, and these patients are seen regularly on the ward. This element will continue to expand and will eventually involve visiting all patients who acquire multi-resistant organisms.

The patient liaison nurses at the Royal Free hospital

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