Moral Distress: Identification Among Inpatient Oncology Nurses in an Academic Health System

Erin T. Marturano

Robin M. Hermann

Nicholas A. Giordano

Rebecca L. Trotta

moral distress, oncology nursing, stress, psychological, staffing
CJON 2020, 24(5), 500-508. DOI: 10.1188/20.CJON.500-508

Background: Moral distress occurs when clinicians know the morally correct action to take but are unable to follow through because of internal and external constraints. It is associated with negative consequences, such as burnout, decreased job satisfaction, avoidance, and turnover.

Objectives: The purpose of this study was to describe the frequency and level of moral distress among inpatient oncology nurses and to identify possible associations among nurses’ demographic characteristics, work experience, and moral distress levels.

Methods: Ninety-three inpatient oncology nurses from a large academic health system completed the Moral Distress Scale–Revised (MDS-R). Additional questions included intent to leave and requests for changes in patient assignments because of moral distress.

Findings: Years as a nurse, changing or considering changing patient assignments, and changing care provided to a patient because of moral distress were statistically significantly associated with higher MDS-R scores. Participants reported using palliative care consultations, pastoral care, and social work to assist with their moral distress.

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