Ethical dilemmas in telenursing

A qualitative interview study revealed that telenurses experience a wide range of ethically troubling situations, covering subjects such as autonomy, integrity and prioritizing. Although several of the identified dilemmas also occur in other areas of nursing it is reasonable to argue that these situations are particularly challenging in telenursing, as the encounter with the patient is faceless and the nurse can not be sure of the callers’ identity.

A similar study has investigated how gender impacts the encounter between the caller and the telenurse. The results revealed several aspects of how gender norms are present in telenursing. Questions of power relations, the picture of the mother/woman as the primary care taker of small children and distrusting men in their parental role were particularly highlighted.


Holmström I, Höglund AT, Det ansiktslösa mötets etik. Sjuksköterskors erfarenheter av etiska dilemman vid telefonrådgivning, in Holmström I. (ed.): Telefonrådgivning inom hälso- och sjukvård. Lund: Studentlitteratur (2008), pp. 91-105.

Höglund AT, Holmström I, 'It's easier to talk to a woman'. Aspects of gender in Swedish telenursing, Journal of Clinical Nursing, 2008;17:2979-2986.

Holmström I, Höglund AT, Response to commentary, Journal of Clinical Nursing, 2008;17:3251-3252.

Holmström I, Höglund AT, The Faceless Encounter. Ethical Dilemmas in Telephone Nursing, Journal of Clinical Nursing, 2007;16:1865-1871.


  • Anna T. Höglund, Associate Professor of Ethics, Senior lecturer in nursing ethics and gender studies
  • Inger Holmström, Professor, Mälardalen University