BMJ Qual Saf 2015;24:630-636
Background Isolation-based practices in nursing homes (NHs) differ from those in acute care. NHs must promote quality of life while preventing infection transmission. Practices used in NHs to reconcile these goals of care have not been characterised.
Purpose To explore decision-making in isolation-based infection prevention and control practices in NHs.
Methods A qualitative study was conducted with staff (eg, staff nurses, infection prevention directors and directors of nursing) employed in purposefully sampled US NHs. Semistructured, role-specific interview guides were developed and interviews were digitally recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed using directed content analysis. The research team discussed emerging themes in weekly meetings to confirm consensus.
Results We inferred from 73 interviews in 10 NHs that there was variation between NHs in practices regarding who was isolated, when isolation-based practices took place, how they were implemented, and how they were tailored for each resident. Interviewees’ decision-making depended on staff perceptions of acceptable transmission risk and resident quality of life. NH resources also influenced decision-making, including availability of private rooms, extent to which staff can devote time to isolation-based practices and communication tools. A lack of understanding of key infection prevention and control concepts was also revealed.
Conclusions and implications Current clinical guidelines are not specific enough to ensure consistent practice that meets care goals and resource constraints in NHs. However, new epidemiological research regarding effectiveness of varying isolation practices in this setting is needed to inform clinical practice. Further, additional infection prevention and control education for NH staff may be required.