COVID-19 as moral breakdown: Entangled ethical demands experienced by hospital-based nurses in the early onset of the pandemic
2020 saw the rapid onset of a global pandemic caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus. For healthcare systems worldwide, the pandemic called upon quick organization ensuring treatment and containment measures for the new virus disease. Nurses were seen as constituting a vital instrumental professional component in this study. Due to the pandemic's unpredictable and potentially dangerous nature, nurses have faced unprecedented risks and challenges.
Based on interviews and free text comment from a survey, this study explores how ethical challenges related to “being a nurse” during the COVID-19 pandemic was experienced and understood by Danish hospital-based nurses. Departing from anthropologist Jarett Zigon's notion of moral breakdown, the study demonstrates how the rapid onset of the pandemic constitutes a moral breakdown raising ethical demands for nurses.
Analytically we identify three different ethical demands experienced by the nurses. These ethical demands are Nursing and societal ethical demands, Nursing and personal ethical demands, and Nursing and conflicting ethical demands. These demands represent not only very different understandings of ethical demands but also different understandings of ethical acts that are seen as necessary to respond to these demands.