Ethical dilemmas embedded in performing fieldwork with nurses in the ICU

Monika Evelyn Kvande, Charlotte Delmar, Jette Lauritzen, Janne Brammer Damsgaard

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Background: Background: In general, qualitative research design often involves merging together various data
collection strategies, and researcher’s may need to be prepared to spend longer periods in the field to pursue
data collection opportunities that were not foreseen. Furthermore, nurse researchers performing qualitative
research among patients and their relatives often experience unforeseen ethical dilemmas.
Aim: This paper aimed to explore aspects of ethical dilemmas related to qualitative nursing research among
patients and their relatives in the intensive care unit (ICU).
Research design: This paper is based on a qualitative researcher’s personal experience during a
hermeneutic phenomenological study involving close observation and in-depth interviews with 11
intensive care nurses. Data were collected at two ICUs in two Norwegian university hospitals.
Ethical considerations: The study was approved by the Norwegian Social Science Data Services (NSD). The
Regional Committee for Medical and Health Research Ethics (REK) granted dispensation to the project regarding
health personnels confidentiality of the patients who were present during the observation (2012/622-4).
Findings: Close observation with nurses in the ICU requires the researcher to balance being a qualitative
researcher, an ICU nurse and a sensitive fellow human being open to the suffering of the other—that is,
being embodied, engaged and affected by sensitive situations and simultaneously constantly stepping back
and reflecting on the meaning of those situations.
Conclusions: The qualitative researcher’s ethical awareness also entails knowing and acknowledging his or
her own vulnerability, which becomes apparent in the researcher-participant relationship and settings in
which being a fellow human always overrules the researcher’s role in ethical dilemmas.
Original languageEnglish
JournalNursing Ethics
Pages (from-to)1-8
Number of pages8
Publication statusPublished - 8 Apr 2021


  • disease, health science and nursing

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