How prehospital emergency personnel manage ethical challenges: The importance of confidence, trust, and safety

Henriette Bruun*, Louise Milling, Daniel Wittrock, Søren Mikkelsen, Lotte Huniche


Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftTidsskriftartikelForskningpeer review


Background: Ethical challenges constitute an inseparable part of daily decision-making processes in all areas of healthcare. Ethical challenges are associated with moral distress that can lead to burnout. Clinical ethics support has proven useful to address and manage such challenges. This paper explores how prehospital emergency personnel manage ethical challenges. The study is part of a larger action research project to develop and test an approach to clinical ethics support that is sensitive to the context of emergency medicine.

Methods: We explored ethical challenges and management strategies in three focus groups, with 15 participants in total, each attended by emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and prehospital anaesthesiologists. Focus groups were audio-recorded and transcribed verbatim. The approach to data analysis was systematic text condensation approach.

Results: We stratified the management of ethical challenges into actions before, during, and after incidents. Before incidents, participants stressed the importance of mutual understandings, shared worldviews, and a supportive approach to managing emotions. During an incident, the participants employed moral perception, moral judgments, and moral actions. After an incident, the participants described sharing ethical challenges only to a limited extent as sharing was emotionally challenging, and not actively supported by workplace culture, or organisational procedures. The participants primarily managed ethical challenges informally, often using humour to cope.

Conclusion: Our analysis supports and clarifies that confidence, trust, and safety in relation to colleagues, management, and the wider organisation are essential for prehospital emergency personnel to share ethical challenges and preventing moral distress turning into burnout.
TidsskriftBMC Medical Ethics
Antal sider13
StatusUdgivet - 18. maj 2024


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