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Keywords:

  • countertransference;
  • transference;
  • unconscious;
  • psychoanalysis;
  • nurse-patient relationship;
  • unpopular patient;
  • nursing;
  • psychodynamic;
  • nurse–patient interaction

Countertransference is a psychoanalytical concept which, when applied to nursing, refers to the unconscious response of the nurse to the patient. Psychoanalytical concepts such as the unconscious are infrequently mentioned in the nursing literature and have received little research attention. In this paper the literature about the nurse’s countertransference is reviewed. In order that the psychodynamic aspects of this phenomenon are more fully appreciated, both the concepts of the unconscious and transference are first described. The nurse’s countertransference has many expressions. The literature under review has highlighted the expression of countertransference through physical symptoms, through the nurse’s level of involvement with the patient and through the nurse’s positive and negative descriptions of patients. The value of recognizing countertransference is universally acknowledged. It is suggested that countertransference in the nurse-patient relationship should be explored further. The knowledge provided would help provide greater insights into the nurse-patient relationship, and ultimately will be reflected in the quality of care which the patient receives.