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ETSU’s Stidham to study MRSA knowledge, perception in nursing homes

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JOHNSON CITY (July 31, 2014) – East Tennessee State University’s April Stidham, a faculty member in the College of Nursing, will visit dozens of nursing homes in the region over the next year to investigate just how much caretakers at such facilities know about Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus, also known as MRSA or staph infection.

“MRSA has kind of mutated. There are different strands of it now,” said Stidham, a family nurse practitioner. “It’s out in the community more than you think.”

Nursing homes, she noted, are reservoirs for the drug-resistant bacterium that is easily spread by basic physical contact. Stidham’s research project will allow her to collect data to assess bedside caregivers’ knowledge and perception of MRSA and ways to prevent the spread of it.

She will focus her efforts on certified nursing assistants working at nursing homes within a 60-mile radius of ETSU, in Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. Stidham’s project is being funded through a university Research Development Committee grant she received in the spring.

“This all started from a smaller RDC grant I got funded last year. With that one, I looked at CNAs working at two or three nursing homes in Johnson City,” Stidham said. “What I found was that there is a need there for education about MRSA at the CNA level. They want more education on it and they are very important parts of this because they are the ones at the patient’s bedside.”

Through the additional RDC funding, Stidham will visit even more participating nursing homes to meet with CNAs and have them fill out a two-part survey that addresses their knowledge about MRSA as well as their perceptions of the infection and how it is spread.

Stidham said she also hopes to see a decrease in MRSA outbreaks due to improved education and practices among CNAs.

“Most importantly though, I hope that this helps CNAs see their value as an active member of a health care team,” Stidham said. “They are a main stakeholder in controlling MRSA in nursing home populations.”

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