Background: Providing nursing care for patients with end-stage renal disease entails dealing with existential issues which may sometimes lead not only to ethical problems but also conflicts within the team. A previous study shows that physicians felt irresolute, torn and unconfirmed when ethical dilemmas arose. Research question: This study, conducted in the same dialysis care unit, aimed to illuminate registered nurses’ experiences of being in ethically difficult situations that give rise to a troubled conscience. Research design: This study has a phenomenological hermeneutic approach. Participants: Narrative interviews were carried out with 10 registered nurses working in dialysis care. Ethical considerations: The study was approved by the Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Medicine, Umeå University. Results: One theme, ‘Calling for a deliberative dialogue’, and six sub-themes emerged: ‘Dealing with patients’ ambiguity’, ‘Responding to patients’ reluctance’, ‘Acting against patients’ will’, ‘Acting against one’s moral convictions’, ‘Lacking involvement with patients and relatives’ and ‘Being trapped in feelings of guilt’. Discussion: In ethically difficult situations, the registered nurses tried, but failed, to open up a dialogue with the physicians about ethical concerns and their uncertainty. They felt alone, uncertain and sometimes had to act against their conscience. Conclusion: In ethical dilemmas, personal and professional integrity is at stake. Mistrusting their own moral integrity may turn professionals from moral actors into victims of circumstances. To counteract such a risk, professionals and patients need to continuously deliberate on their feelings, views and experiences, in an atmosphere of togetherness and trust.
2015. Vol. 22, no 6, 711-722 p.