Little is known about nurses' direct experiences of ethical preparedness for dealing with catastrophic public health emergencies and healthcare disasters or the ethical quandaries that may arise during such events. A systematic literature review was undertaken to explore and synthesize qualitative research literature reporting nurses' direct experiences of being prepared for and managing the ethical challenges posed by catastrophic public health emergencies and healthcare disasters. Twenty-six research studies were retrieved for detailed examination and assessed by two independent reviewers for methodological validity prior to inclusion in the review. Of these, 12 studies published between 1973 and 2011 were deemed to meet the inclusion criteria and were critically appraised. The review confirmed there is a significant gap in the literature on nurses' experiences of ethical preparedness for managing public health emergencies and healthcare disasters, and the ethical quandaries they encounter during such events. This finding highlights the need for ethical considerations in emergency planning, preparedness, and response by nurses to be given more focused attention in the interests of better informing the ethical basis of emergency disaster management.