moral distress, palliative care



  1. Bosshardt, Maribeth H. MD
  2. Coyne, Patrick J. MSN, ACHPN, ACNS-BC, FAAN, FPCN
  3. Marsden, Justin BS
  4. Su, Zemin MS
  5. Melvin, Cathy L. PhD, MPH, BA(Hons)


Moral distress affects workplace environment, burnout, employee retention, and patient safety. Palliative care is frequently involved in complex care for patients that may cause moral distress among staff. The goal of this study was to measure change in moral distress among nurses after implementation of a policy that allows nurses to consult palliative care. Before the policy change, data were gathered via email using the Moral Distress Scale-Revised. The scale was redistributed 6 months after implementation of the consult policy. Pre and post Moral Distress Scale-Revised results were analyzed. Qualitative thematic analyses of the nurses' comments were conducted.


A significantly lower percentage of nurses reported providing care for a hopelessly ill patient frequently or very frequently (34.6% vs 23.1%, P = .0397) after the policy change. However, a significantly higher percentage of nurses postpolicy reported frequently or very frequently providing less-than-optimal care because of pressures from administrators/insurers (14.4% vs 21.1%, P = .0378), caring for patients they did not feel qualified to care for (5.3% vs 14.8%, P = .0055), and working with providers who were not competent to care for the patient (13.9% vs 26.9%, P = .0059). Themes from nurses' comments were inadequate staffing, communication, ethical concerns, and lack of education.