Intensive care: situations of ethical difficulty


Anna Söderberg Doctoral Student Department of Advanced Nursing, Umea University, Box 1442 S-091 24 Umea Sweden


Twenty enrolled nurses (ENs), 20 registered nurses (RNs) and 20 physicians working in intensive care in northern Sweden narrated 255 stones about their experience of being in ethically difficult care situations The ENs’ stones mainly concerned problems relating to relationship ethics, the stones narrated by the physicians mainly concerned problems relating to action ethics, while the RNs’ stones gave equal attention to both kinds of problems The most common theme of both the RNs’ and the physicians’ stones was that of too much treatment An obvious similarity between the ENs, RNs and physicians was that they saw themselves as equally lacking in influence in ethically difficult care situations The only apparent difference between the three groups, however, was that the ENs brought up relationship problems more often than the others Thus, the differences between the RNs and the physicians were fewer than usually reported in the literature This might be related to the specialization of intensive care