Public health nurses’ professional dignity: An interview study in Finland

Nursing Ethics 29 (6):1503-1517 (2022)
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Abstract

BackgroundDignity is a central human value supported by nurses’ professional ethics. In previous studies, nurses in clinical practice have experienced that dignity increased their work well-being and pride of work. Dignity is also strictly interweaved to professional identity in the different nursing’ roles, but little is known about dignity among public health nurses and primary care settings.PurposeThis study aimed to describe the perceptions of nursing's professional dignity of public health nurses in primary care in Finland.Research designAn inductive qualitative descriptive approach with semi-structured focus group interviews was utilised.Participants and research contextTwenty-seven Finnish public health nurses were interviewed via eight semi-structured focus group interviews in primary health care settings.Ethical considerationsBefore data collection, research permissions were obtained from participating health care centres. This type of research in Finland, with competent adult participants, does not require ethical pre-assessment but written and oral informed consent obtained before the interviews.FindingsBased on our findings, public health nurses perceived that professional dignity was (1) part of their self-respect, an observed daily value based on their acknowledged competence. Besides, they perceived that (2) service users’ trust in public health nurses was a strong expression of professional dignity, and it could be uncovered when recipients of care utilised their services. In addition, public health nurses experienced that (3) professional dignity was an expression of different intertwined interprofessional and social factors.Discussion and conclusionProfessional dignity is simultaneously an essential prerequisite and an outcome of public health nurses’ work. In future, more information would be needed to implement strategies in primary health care to foster nurses’ professional dignity also in international public health arenas.

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