PRESS RELEASE FROM THE UNIVERSITY OF DUNDEE
RESEARCH SUGGESTS HEALTHCARE PROFESSIONALS SHOULD ENGAGE MEDIA IN A CRISIS
Healthcare professionals should understand and engage with the media around healthcare-related risk issues to best get their messages across to the public, an academic analysis of media coverage of the Vale of Leven Hospital Clostridium difficile outbreak has concluded.
Researchers in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at the University of Dundee examined newspaper coverage over the first three weeks of the Vale of Leven Hospital C.difficile outbreak which occurred in 2008 – how it was represented and the strategies adopted in order to do this.
In a paper published in the Journal of Advanced Nursing, the researchers state, “With regard to media coverage, it is vital that an understanding of what is reported, how it is reported and why it is reported is gained to be able to fully engage with patients and the public.
“Rather than viewing media coverage of an adverse healthcare event as potentially harmful, it can be used as an opportunity for healthcare professionals, especially nurses, to continually engage with patients and the public to challenge unwarranted assumptions and promote basic knowledge of infection risk and a more comprehensive understanding.”
The Vale of Leven Hospital C. difficile outbreak saw a total of 55 patients at the hospital affected between December 2007 and June 2008. Eighteen people died, with C. difficile beingfound to be a main cause of death in 9 cases and a contributory factor in the other 9.
The incident was the subject of intense media coverage. Following a series of delays, the public inquiry into the incident is due to report its findings by March 31st 2014.
The research team said their report could help inform future communication and management strategies in a crisis situation such as a C. difficilie outbreak.
Emma Burnett, lead author on the research paper and a Lecturer and Researcher Infection Prevention and Control in the School of Nursing and Midwifery at Dundee, said, “The media is and will remain a critical factor in disseminating information in the event of a crisis as was the case of the Vale of Leven Hospital outbreak.
“Our analysis of the coverage of this situation showed a very complex picture emerging in which various people and institutions were characterised as `victims’, `heroes’ or `villains’. Healthcare organisations can use this understanding to gain a sense of how a crises story is likely be represented, predict potential responses and thus inform future communication and management strategies.
“If healthcare professionals are to get the best information out then they must engage with media rather than putting up the barricades. There is a clear public interest to be served in getting the best information to the public, which will include friends and families of any patients who may be directly affected.”
The full paper is available to view online at:
|Period||21 Nov 2013|