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The experience of disgust by healthcare professionals: A literature review

Hadjittofi, Marilena, Gleeson, Kate and Arber, Anne (2020) The experience of disgust by healthcare professionals: A literature review International Journal of Nursing Studies, 110, 103720.

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Disgust is a common emotion experienced by healthcare professionals which in extreme cases can contribute to neglect and abuse of patients. However, little research has explored how healthcare professionals experience disgust and what coping strategies they use to manage it.


To identify, evaluate and synthesise results from empirical papers that have explored how healthcare professionals experience, understand and manage disgust in clinical work.


A narrative literature review.

Data Sources

Using the EBSCOHost interface, a range of databases were systematically searched alongside manual searches and citation chaining which yielded the 11 papers included in this review.

Review Method

Qualitative synthesis.


Three major themes were identified: The professionals’ struggle to talk about disgust; the importance of boundaries: boundary breaching and boundary building; and the role of empathy in caring.


This review found that disgust is a common experience for healthcare professionals, yet it is not talked about or openly expressed. Professionals have developed ways to cope with disgust and use empathy as a main strategy to overcome it. The review suggests that healthcare professionals should consider ways of making disgust part of a wider conversation, allowing clinicians to engage with their feelings, rather than feel ashamed of them and hiding disgust away as a silent part of care.

Item Type: Article
Divisions : Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences > School of Health Sciences
Authors :
Date : 1 October 2020
DOI : 10.1016/j.ijnurstu.2020.103720
Copyright Disclaimer : © 2020. This manuscript version is made available under the CC-BY-NC-ND 4.0 license
Uncontrolled Keywords : Avoidance; Disgust; Empathy; Health services; Healthcare professionals; Narrative review
Depositing User : Clive Harris
Date Deposited : 07 Oct 2020 10:49
Last Modified : 07 Oct 2020 10:49

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