• infection spread;
  • psychological effects;
  • source isolation

• Source isolation can be an extremely frightening and anxiety provoking experience. With the many epidemiological changes that are prevalent in the UK today the need to care for individuals in source isolation is becoming increasingly important to prevent the spread of infection in hospitals.

• However, the psychological effects of source isolation are not well understood or researched.

• This review defines and examines the historical developments of source isolation and then discusses related research which suggests possible effects of source isolation on an individual's psychological well-being.

• Research which has determined the effects of sensory deprivation and social isolation are discussed, together with literature on the intensive care syndrome.

• This review highlights the lack of research on the psychological effects of source isolation. Furthermore, literature and research on related aspects of isolation suggests very serious effects are noted on the psychological well-being of individuals.

• Whilst a cessation of source isolation is not an option, urgent research is required to examine what nurse interventions can be implemented to ameliorate these negative effects.