Background: Patients have, traditionally, been assumed to be the passive party in the healthcare-associated infections equation, with relatively little research focused on the patients’ perspective. This study aimed to explore the attitudes of hospital patients towards patient empowerment as one of the key components of patient engagement.
Methods: Semi-structured interviews were undertaken with surgical patients from a major public hospital in Sydney, Australia.
Findings: While participants acknowledged that patients could play a role in preventing infections while in hospital, that role was largely associated with maintaining their own personal hygiene. No reference was made to patients interacting with staff members. Some participants said that they would feel comfortable and happy to engage with staff, while others voiced concerns. Some about not wanting to ‘cause trouble or start fires’ and therefore would not tell staff members to perform hand hygiene. Some participants articulated a fear that their care may be negatively affected if they directly engaged or confronted clinicians about their behaviours.
Conclusion: We found that patient engagement remains an underused method of preventing healthcare-associated infections, and the deep-seated public fears about individual vulnerabilities still need to be addressed.