Ethical, legal and professional accountability in emergency nursing practice: an ethnographic observational study


Introduction Accountability in nursing practice is a concept that influences quality care, decision-making, safety standards and staff values. Therefore, understanding accountability and how it affects nursing practice could improve patient care and nurses’ working conditions. Aim The aim of this study was to find factors that influenced ethical, legal and professional accountability in emergency nursing practice. Methods A qualitative ethnographic approach using participant observation through convenience sampling was employed as the data collection method, while ethnographic content analysis was used for data analysis. Results The factors linked to nursing accountability found were classified into four main themes: daily dynamics, work environment evolution, customs and routines and bioethics principles’ application. Discussion The long-term effect of chronic high workload and crowding, which affects nursing accountability, could promote burnout in a junior ED workforce. Changes in the nurses’ working conditions need to be implemented to limit the workload to which an ED nurse is subjected to.

Conclusion ED nurses have to manage their accountability in difficult situations regularly, which followed patterns of four main themes across the majority of situations. Nonetheless, all those factors were influenced by nursing workload, an ever-present factor that was always considered by ED nurses during decision-making.


The file attached to this record is the author's final peer reviewed version. The Publisher's final version can be found by following the DOI link.


Accountability, Clinical ethics, Decision making, Emergency nursing, Legal, Motivation, Nurse-patient relationship, Professional ethics, Work conditions


Rubio-Navarro, A., Garcia-Capilla, D.J., Torralba-Madrid, M.J. and Rutty J (2019) Ethical, legal and professional accountability in emergency nursing practice: An ethnographic observational study. International Emergency Nursing, 46, 100777


Research Institute

Institute of Health, Health Policy and Social Care