Moral obligations of nurses and physicians in neonatal end-of-life care

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The aim of this study was to explore the obligations of nurses and physicians in providing end-of-life care. Nineteen nurses and 11 physicians from a single newborn intensive care unit participated. Using content analysis, an overarching obligation of creating the best possible experience for infants and parents was identified, within which two categories of obligations (decision making and the end of life itself) emerged. Obligations in decision making included talking to parents and timing withdrawal. End-of-life obligations included providing options, preparing parents, being with, advocating, creating peace and normalcy, and providing comfort. Nurses and physicians perceived obligations in both categories, although nurse obligations centered on the end of life while physician obligations focused on decision making. The findings demonstrate that, although the ultimate goal is shared by both disciplines, the paths to achieving that goal are often different. This has important implications for collaboration, communication, and improving the end of life.

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