Caring About - Caring For: moral obligations and work responsibilities in intensive care nursing

Nursing Ethics 11 (1):63-76 (2004)
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Abstract

The aim of this study was to analyse experiences of moral concerns in intensive care nursing. The theoretical perspective of the study is based on relational ethics, also referred to as ethics of care. The participants were 36 intensive care nurses from 10 general, neonatal and thoracic intensive care units. The structural characteristics of the units were similar: a high working pace, advanced technology, budget restrictions, recent reorganization, and shortage of experienced nurses. The data consisted of the participants’ examples of ethical situations they had experienced in their intensive care unit. A qualitative content analysis identified five themes: believing in a good death; knowing the course of events; feelings of distress; reasoning about physicians’ ‘doings’ and tensions in expressing moral awareness. A main theme was formulated as caring about - caring for: moral obligations and work responsibilities. Moral obligations and work responsibilities are assumed to be complementary dimensions in nursing, yet they were found not to be in balance for intensive care nurses. In conclusion there is a need to support nurses in difficult intensive care situations, for example, by mentoring, as a step towards developing moral action knowledge in the context of intensive care nursing

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Tom Burns
Uppsala University