Objective To explore the lived experience of patients in MRSA isolation in an acute care hospital in New Zealand. Design Interpretive phenomenology. Setting Acute care hospital in New Zealand. Participants A purposive sample of ten adult patients with MRSA infection and under isolation precautions for more than three days. Results The majority of participants found some positive aspect of being accommodated in a single room; however, the overall experience of MRSA isolation was viewed as a negative one. 'Being MRSA positive', 'Being with others'; and 'Living within four walls' were the major themes associated with participants' experience. The central characterisation of their experience, 'Behind barriers', suggested that for these patients MRSA isolation imposes barriers to the expression of own identity and normal interpersol relationships, and impacts on the delivery of quality care. Conclusion Source isolation for MRSA influences the quality of care and in particular the opportunity for emotiol support. Consideration must be given to the design of the isolation environs and staff must be equipped with adequate infection control knowledge to ameliorate and inform patients and their families of the effects of isolation.