BACKGROUND: Ethics and dignity in prehospital emergency care are important due to vulnerability and suffering. Patients can lose control of their body and encounter unfamiliar faces in an emergency situation.
OBJECTIVE: To describe what specialist ambulance nurse students experienced as preserved and humiliated dignity in prehospital emergency care.
RESEARCH DESIGN: The study had a qualitative approach.
METHOD: Data were collected by Flanagan's critical incident technique. The participants were 26 specialist ambulance nurse students who described two critical incidents of preserved and humiliated dignity, from prehospital emergency care. Data consist of 52 critical incidents and were analyzed with interpretive content analysis.
ETHICAL CONSIDERATIONS: The study followed the ethical principles in accordance with the Declaration of Helsinki.
FINDINGS: The result showed how human dignity in prehospital emergency care can be preserved by the ambulance nurse being there for the patient. The ambulance nurses meet the patient in the patient's world and make professional decisions. The ambulance nurse respects the patient's will and protects the patient's body from the gaze of others. Humiliated dignity was described through the ambulance nurse abandoning the patient and by healthcare professionals failing, disrespecting, and ignoring the patient.
DISCUSSION: It is a unique situation when a nurse meets a patient face to face in a critical life or death moment. The discussion describes courage and the ethical vision to see another human.
CONCLUSION: Dignity was preserved when the ambulance nurse showed respect and protected the patient in prehospital emergency care. The ambulance nurse students' ethical obligation results in the courage to see when a patient's dignity is in jeopardy of being humiliated. Humiliated dignity occurs when patients are ignored and left unprotected. This ethical dilemma affects the ambulance nurse students badly due to the fact that the morals and attitudes of ambulance nurses are reflected in their actions toward the patient.
Ambulance nurse; content analysis; critical incidents; human dignity; prehospital emergency care