Psychological issues surrounding faecal incontinence: experiences of patients and nurses

Butcher L1. Br J Community Nurs. 2020 Jan 2;25(1):34-38. doi: 10.12968/bjcn.2020.25.1.34.


Author information

Lecturer in Adult Nursing, School of Healthcare Sciences, College of Biomedical and Life Sciences, Cardiff University.


Continence care breaches social norms about privacy, nakedness and bodily functions. Faecal incontinence (FI) is a condition that is associated with a significant emotional impact, which extends to not only the patient but also the nurse or care worker. Patients can experience feelings of guilt and shame and a sense of 'incompetence', which can be connected to childhood experiences. Similarly, nurses and caregivers can encounter feelings of disgust and revulsion, which are often denied, as part of the perceived professional expectation. Nurses can develop self-protective behaviours including emotional detachment and development of a task-orientated approach to physical care. This can, in turn, accentuate the negative feelings experienced by patients with FI. Nurses developing self-awareness through reflection on their own difficult feelings can help to improve communication, which will meet patients' emotional needs and improve the therapeutic relationship. This article aims to encourage nurses and care workers to develop an empathetic understanding of the basic human emotional responses experienced by patients. It also aims to improve nurses' awareness of their own feelings and help them recognise the effect of these emotions on their own behaviours and their patients. Lastly, the importance of providing emotional care to patients with FI is discussed.

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