Moral Distress

Angie Szumlinski
|
July 4, 2024
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Moral distress has been recognized as a major problem for health care staff in all care systems for years. The concept of moral distress was introduced by the philosopher Andrew Jameton in 1984. “Moral distress is pain affecting the mind, the body, or relationships that result from a patient care situation in which the nurse is aware of a moral problem, acknowledges moral responsibility, and makes a moral judgment about the correct action, yet, as a result of real or perceived constraints, participates, either by act or omission, in a manner he or she perceives to be morally wrong”.  

“Moral distress occurs when nurses or other health care staff are unable to act in accordance with their personal values or/and professional judgment when it comes to external constraints, such as lack of resources, or internal characteristics related to moral judgment. Not being able to provide care, or providing compromised quality to the elderly contributes to staff reports of feeling emotionally drained or physically exhausted. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy, frustration, anger, fatigue, headaches, stomach pain, etc.”  

We are all stretched thin with staffing, many of us are using contract staff to “fill openings” but are we doing the right thing? Remember the days when we were “short staffed”, and we somehow got it done? Sure, maybe we missed a shower or two or maybe a resident stayed in the dining room a few minutes longer before being taken back to their room. Did we have moral distress? Not sure. Are your staff suffering from this phenomenon? It might be time to look at the study, share the information with your team, let them know they aren’t crazy, there are times when putting yourself first might be needed. No guilt, no shame, hopefully come back refreshed and rested. Please take care of your staff, if it were easy everyone would be doing it. Stay well and stay informed! 


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