An ICU nurse struggles to reconcile repeated surgeries and transfusions for a comatose patient who has little chance of recovery. An oncology nurse knows a patient wants to refuse treatment but doesn’t do so because his physician and family want him to “fight on.” A nurse on a geriatric unit knows she’s not giving needed care to patients because of poor staffing.
Situations such as these are all too common and can give rise to moral distress. Moral distress occurs when nurses recognize their responsibility to respond to care situations but are unable to translate their moral choices into action.
As explained in “Moral Distress: A Catalyst in Building Moral Resilience,” one of the CE articles in our July issue, this “inability to act in alignment with one’s moral values is detrimental not only to the nurse’s well-being but also to patient care and clinical practice as a whole.” […]