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Moral distress, Coping strategies, Stress



  1. McClendon, Heather RN, BSN
  2. Buckner, Ellen B. DSN, RN


Moral distress is a significant stressor for nurses in critical care. Feeling that they are doing the "right thing" is important to nurses, and situations of moral distress can make them question their work. The purpose of this study was to describe critical care nurses' levels of moral distress, the effects of that distress on their personal and professional lives, and nurses' coping strategies. The study consisted of open-ended questions to elicit qualitatively the nurses' feelings about moral distress and a quantitative measure of the degree of distress caused by certain types of situations. The questionnaires were then analyzed to assess the nurses' opinions regarding moral distress, how their self-perceived job performance is affected, and what coping methods they use to deal with moral distress. The most frequently encountered moral distress situations involved critically ill patients whose families wished to continue aggressive treatment when it probably would not benefit the patient in the end.