Healthcare personnel’s experiences of situations in municipal elderly care that generate troubled conscience

Scand J Caring Sci. 2013 Jun;27(2):215-23. doi:
10.1111/j.1471-6712.2012.01017.x. Epub 2012 May 22. PubMed PMID: 22612532.

Eva Ericson-Lidman, Astrid Norberg, Birgitta Persson, Gunilla Strandberg

Healthcare personnel may perceive troubled conscience when feeling inadequate and powerless. It is important to further explore healthcare personnel’s descriptions of situations in daily work, which generate troubled conscience to increase the awareness of such situations. This study aimed to describe health care personnel’s experiences of situations in municipal elderly care that generate troubled conscience. In this qualitative study, interviews were conducted with Registered and Enrolled nurses and nursing assistants (n = 20) working in municipal elderly care.

The interviews were tape-recorded, transcribed verbatim and analysed with content analysis. Situations that generated troubled conscience was (i) Being caught between different demands, comprising being forced to prioritize between different residents’ needs, being torn between residents’-/relatives’-/and co-workers’ needs and expectations’ and between work and private life, (ii) Being torn away from residents to other ‘must do’s’, comprising stealing time from residents’ to do housekeeping chore’ and to ‘obey’ rules and recommendations, (iii) Feeling unable to relieve suffering, comprising falling short when striving to help, lacking knowledge, advice and support and time to ease residents’ suffering and finally, (iv) Being part of providing care that is or feels wrong, comprising providing poor care and/or witnessing co-workers providing poor care, and being forced to give care that feels wrong.

These findings identify important factors that generate stress of conscience (stress caused by troubled conscience), including difficulties with balancing priorities and following rules and recommendations that seem contrary to best care, and the need for interdisciplinary teamwork. Findings point to that sharing what conscience tells in the work team opens up possibilities for healthcare personnel to constructively deal with troubled conscience. Intervention studies are needed to explore whether such measures contribute to relieve the burden of troubled conscience and increase possibilities to provide high quality care. [Full Text]

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