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Nurs Econ. 2007 Jul-Aug;25(4):217-21.

Moral distress: recognizing it to retain nurses.

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  • 1Surgical Intensive Care Unit, Lakeland Regional Medical Center, Lakeland, FL, USA.


Faced with the challenges in today's acute care environment, 15% of the nurses in one study reported resigning a position due to experiencing moral distress. Moral distress is the physical or emotional suffering that is experienced when constraints (internal or external) prevent one from following the course of action that one believes is right. With more responsibility than authority, nurses often lack the autonomy to do what they feel should be done. Nurses often seem unaware of moral distress experience in themselves. Feelings labeled as stress, burnout, emotional exhaustion, and job dissatisfaction may actually be symptomatic of moral distress. An organizational commitment to addressing the issue of moral distress could reap benefits with greater employee job satisfaction, decreased turnover, and ultimately improved patient care.

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