Exploring the Moral Distress of Registered Nurses
Zuzelo, Patti Rager
Nursing Ethics 2007 May; 14(3): 344-359
Registered nurses (RNs) employed in an urban medical center in the USA identified moral distress as a practice concern. This study describes RNs' moral distress and the frequency of morally distressing events. Data were collected using the Moral Distress Scale and an open-ended questionnaire. The instruments were distributed to direct-care-providing RNs; 100 responses were returned. Morally distressing events included: working with staffing levels perceived as 'unsafe', following families' wishes for patient care even though the nurse disagreed with the plan, and continuing life support for patients owing to family wishes despite patients' poor prognoses. One high frequency distressing event was carrying out orders for unnecessary tests and treatments. Qualitative data analysis revealed that the nurses sought support and information from nurse managers, chaplaincy services and colleagues. The RNs requested further information on biomedical ethics, suggested ethics rounds, and requested a non-punitive environment surrounding the initiation of ethics committee consultations.
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